When Karen, all-around good egg and occasional contributor to Chicago Bites, suggested we go out for dinner on November 1, I was all for it. I like having plans for the Day of the Dead and Nana in Bridgeport is a favorite spot.
However, in the hub-bub of weather shifts, political attack ads, and holiday-avoidance, I completely spaced the part where dinner was in costume. Sigh. Karen looked smashing as a bruja version of Slash, whereas I snuck by with a combination of fancy mask and bad intent.
Turns out dinner really was worth dressing up for. Nana’s owner, staff, and chef put on a four course spread with drink pairings that was easily worth twice the $40 per person price tag.
The meal started with a pumpkin soup topped with a salsa and dotted with cacao. Most pumpkin soup renditions I’ve had are thick, creamy, and a little too sweet. Not this one. The savory-smokey layer infused every bite and bloomed with sips of the peppered apple-rita.
Since the entire restaurant was served at the same time, there was a bit of a delay between courses. I didn’t mind because we had a great view of the owner as he concocted the drinks. The next course was paired with a caramel-infused brew from 5 Rabbit, Vida y Muerte that he rimmed with cinnamon and sugar.
It was a successful pairing with a delicious tostada of braised lamb topped with feta. The roasted peppers came into sharper focus and were accented, not overpowered, by the sweetened hops. It was my favorite dish and I only hope it stays on the menu.
Tepache, a fermented beverage made of pineapple rinds and flesh, got dressed up for the next course. Dotted with hibiscus-laced chia seeds and a spritz of mescal, this evil-looking drink was light and fruity.
Once again, it was a perfect extension of its pairing — flautas stuffed with duck confit atop a creamy avocado poblano sauce. The duck was amazing, not at all greasy and packed with flavors I’m still analyzing the next day. I honestly don’t know what witchery was at work in the kitchen, but it was amazing.
After three successful course, I was prepared to be disappointed by dessert, rice pudding — not my favorite. Nuh-uh. Bewitchment was the aim.
Steaming mugs of pumpkin atole, a recipe of *the* Nana, were served first. Nutmeg, cardamon, and a touch of cloves accented the drink, which held the heat and flavor all the way to the bottom. It was served with orange-flavored rice that took on more sweetness and flavor with a date-paste concoction that made me magically love rice pudding. Every last bite.
This was one of the best meals I’ve had for $40. My next trick will be to get on Nana’s mailing list so I can snag a reservation for the next restaurant-wide event.
Nana is great for brunch and lunch as well as dinner and special events. Visit them at 3267 S. Halsted.