by Dwight Casimere
325 W Huron St, Chicago, IL 60610.
Tel: (312) 664-2727
Fax: +1 312 649 0256
There’s no better way to escape the bitter cold of this Holiday Season than by escaping to a tropical paradise, where the lively music and food transforms winter’s chill in a haven of Latin rhythms and flavors.
Nacional 27 is Chicago’s premiere Modern Latin Restaurant. Eat. Drink. Dance. Those are the watchwords and motto of the hottest location for Nuevo Latino (modern Latin) cuisine.
I recently experienced the Tasting Menu, along with a friend who spent several years as the owner of a restaurant and bar in Brazil. From the opening sampling of Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaca sugar and line. Cachaca is Brazil’s most common distilled alcoholic beverage. It is similar to rum, in that it is derived from sugar. Rum is made from molasses. Cachaca is made from fermented sugar cane juice that is later distilled. My friend declared that bartender Adam Seger had gotten it just right, prompting him to shout “Arrasou!” (Fantastic!) in Portuguese.
Nacional 27 is also known for its Mojitos and House Margaritas.
Nacional 27’s wine list is a tour de force of wines spanning the Spanish-speaking Diaspora. Aveleda Vinho Verde from Portugal (Grinalda Seleccionada 2008-$11.84) This sophisticated white wine is from one of the oldest names in Portugal and is a virtual “party in your mouth.” The flavors make it the perfect soul mate for ceviche, a sort of Spanish ‘sushi’, made of raw fish, marinated in lemon or lime and flavored with a light dusting of chili peppers.
The Guacamole at Nacional 27 is among the best I’ve had. It’s a generous portion made with fresh avocado, tomatillos, garlic, lime, cilantro, chili peppers and served with freshly made tortilla & taro chips.
Small plates (tapas) of lettuce wrapped shrimp and scallops flavored with more fresh avocado and lime continued the dance party with the Vinho Verde (Fresh Wine). Its light, citrusy flavor with its hint of refreshing lime went perfectly with both the shrimp, scallop and Barramundi (tropical white fish) ceviche and the tapas.
“Don’t get hung up on the tapas,” our server warned. “There are lots more to come!”
Next was a type of intermezzo, Pacific Ocean oyster “shooters”, fresh oysters served in a shot glass, coated with spicy bloody ‘maria’, a house version of bloody mary, made with tequila.
Torontes, Le Tengo, Luyan de Cuyo, Argentina-2008 ($9.95) is, literally, a white wine that is a tango in your mouth. Its great with seafood or chicken and can even stand up to ‘the other white meat,’ pork or even lamb. Bamboo skewers of chicken marinated in cilantro sofrita and grilled beef tenderloin in spicy tomatillo salsa completed the dance,
Latin favorites, such as steak arepa empanadas with cremini mushrooms or smoke chicken empanadas with roasted corn salsa and ancho crema or the grilled vegetable empanadas made with squash, chayote and chili crema are a type of Latin turnover that is a mouth-watering introduction to the main course.
Grilled marinated skirt steak with crispy Costa Rican potatoes and salsa criola and mole negro prime, bone-in 20 oz ribeye are just two of the superior entrees. My partner chose the pacific blue nose grouper “huachinango with tomatillo salsa and spicy green rice is a triumph of textures and flavors. 2009 Maipe Malbec from Argentina ($8.95) is a fruit-forward, beautifully balanced red wine that goes great with spicy prime cuts of meat and even a spicy firm, fatty white fish, such as grouper. It’s a versatile, food-friendly red that truly compliments the spicy flavors of Latin food, yet it has enough heft to accommodate meat dishes. The main courses are healthy-sized portions. I wound up taking mine home and enjoying it with a glass of 2009 Maipe Malbec Lujan de Cuyo from the Mendoza, Argentina ($10.99) that I had squirreled away in my private cellar.
There’s always room for dessert and Nacional 27 offers a cavalcade of house-made specialties that changes regularly.
This holiday season, Nacional 27 is the place to celebrate.
The Annual Cuban Holiday, Monday, December 20 through Friday, December 24 (Christmas Eve) features a four-course menu that will allow you to celebrate through Cuban favors and fare for just $36.96, include a wine pairing for $45.
Ring in 2011 with an Evening of Dinner, Drinks and Dancing Nacional 27 style!
DINE: Nacional 27 will begin the New Year's Eve celebration with two dinner packages featuring modern Latin cuisine (5pm-10pm, prices and courses vary). Dinner selections, served family-style, will include a variety of tapas, choice of entree with accompanying side dishes and sumptuous dessert.
DRINK: Nacional 27 will also offer two bar packages (9pm and 10pm, prices vary) that include club cover charge, open bar service, passed tapas and champagne toast. Note: party guests arriving after 9pm must purchase one of the bar packages. To purchase online, DANCE: At 11pm, the energy will elevate as tables clear the dance floor for dancing, while the state-of-the-art sound system pulses with beats until 2am. There will be a $20 cover charge for general admission beginning at midnight (this does not apply to dining guests).
Nacional 27 has also been rated one of the Top Ten Destinations for Live Music and Dance in the Chicago area by 10berst.com and TripAdvisor.com.
Call the restaurant at 312.664.2727 for more information and to make your reservation.