The jury is still out on NaNa Asian Fusion and Sushi Bar
First impressions matter, especially when it comes to dining. So, here's a first-hand look at one of the newest restaurants on the block, through the eyes of an average restaurant-goer.
I am of two minds about "fusion" cuisine. On one hand, when done well, I think there is an inherent brilliance in melding cultures, techniques and ingredients to produce something fresh and new. On the other, "fusion" can also result in an imaginative hodge-podge that leaves the diner wondering what just happened. In the case of NaNa Asian Fusion and Sushi Bar, 4511 N. Oakland Ave., I'm afraid the jury is still out.
With a clean modern interior, a flashy back-lit bar and a well-stocked sushi bar, NaNa, which opened Nov. 23, projects a pleasantly upscale image appropriate to its location in the heart of Shorewood.
NaNa's large menu features an interesting selection of sushi, Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes including a large selection of sushi, sashimi and hand rolls, classic dishes like General Tso's Chicken ($13), Lo Mein ($8.50) and teriyaki chicken ($13), and a series of more inventive entrees like Honey Walnut Crispy Chicken and Shrimp ($18), Duck Fajitas Asian Style ($19) and a variety of specialty sushi rolls, including the Lonely Angel ($16) featuring blackened tuna, fried asparagus, tuna, salmon, yellowtail, eel and four kinds of tobiko served with chef's special sauce.
In consideration of the breadth of the menu alone, I visited NaNa for the first time with three others and together we sampled a selection of starters, entrees and sushi. We started our meal with an order of Bamboo Steamed Edamame with Hawaiian sea salt ($5), which we nibbled as we perused the menu. Simply presented on a white plate, the soy beans were flavorful but slightly over-cooked, which detracted from the beans' normally fresh flavor.
Two of my companions opted for soup as a starter course, ordering a bowl of the Egg Drop Soup ($2) and a bowl of Miso Soup ($2). Both soups were heartily portioned and served hot. The miso soup was quite traditional and contained pieces of kombu and small pieces of tofu. The egg drop soup, on the other hand, was deliciously inventive and contained whole pieces of corn as well as what seemed to be a corn-infused stock. Though unexpected, everyone agreed that the soup was delicious. We also eagerly sampled the Crab Rangoon (four pieces for $4), which was crisp and not at all greasy, with a pleasantly sweet crab and cream cheese filling and a small bowl of traditional sweet and sour sauce.
One of my companions ordered a few traditional sushi rolls as his entree, including the spicy tuna ($5.50), salmon avocado ($5) and Crunchy Spicy Salmon ($5). Though not remarkable, the sushi was well formed and attractive. Unfortunately, the salmon with avocado was creamy, but lackluster, and the spicy tuna lacked vigor.
Another diner ordered the Lonely Angel Roll ($16) which was beautifully presented on a plate drizzled with two sauces – one redolent with wasabi, and the other a sweeter soy-based syrup. Although impressive, the angel roll seemed almost too much of a good thing, with the primary feedback indicating that it was difficult to distinguish between the flavors in the roll since there was "a lot going on."
Two of us ordered more traditional fare – Black Bean Sauce with tofu ($11) and Japanese Eggplant Garlic Sauce with tofu ($14). Both dishes were beautifully presented and featured a wide variety of vegetables and plenty of firm slices of tofu. However, the eggplant garlic sauce, which was billed as "spicy" on the menu, was distinctively tame, and the black bean sauce was surprisingly without much flavor, though visible pieces of fermented black beans were evident in the sauce.
Service was a bit slow, but fair, with at least three wait staff attending to our table throughout the evening. All of the staff we dealt with were friendly and pleasant, and we were comfortable lingering for a bit after our meal to visit and relax.
Unfortunately, this first dining experience was disappointingly lackluster. While there were no major disappointments, there was also nothing that truly impressed. As a brand new restaurant, we'll give NaNa another chance to win us over; but we'll let them get their sea legs before we return.
That said, I'd love to get your take on this new restaurant. NaNa's official grand opening will take place Dec. 7, when guests will be able to sample a full range of menu selections for 10 percent off.
Give them a visit and let me know what you think.
Every time I go to Nana, I end up taking pictures of the food! The sushi is delicious and beautifully presented. The Midori roll is scrumptious and beautiful. The Angry Dragon special roll is a delight to all senses. Even if you go for a luncheon special, the miso soup, ginger salad and simple sushi rolls are far better than I ever expected to find on Oakland Ave. I suspect the self proclaimed "average restaurant goer" would have given this restaurant high ratings if it were located in the third ward. In fact, if she and her dining companions prefer to be impressed by average food fare she and her friends might consider calibrating their palattes at the chinese takeout a couple of doors down from Nana. As a member of the unidentified jury I give Nana two thumbs up.
I agree with Bethb. We tried NaNa last week and it was fantastic! We are huge sushi fans, and after moving here from Madison last summer we have been on a hunt to find a great sushi restaurant. Naturally, we were excited to try the sushi at NaNa and we can honestly say the sushi was fantastic and one of the best in the area! We are so happy to have a sushi restaurant so close. The waitstaff and the owner are all very friendly. We will definitely become faithful customers to NaNa.
The jury is not out in my household on NaNa; we think it's one of the best restaurants in the city and certainly better than any others in the North Shore! We've eaten there twice -the first Sunday they were open and then the following Wednesday. We've shared avocado/peanut rolls and shrimp shumai. We've had miso soup twice and enjoyed each although they were different from each other. Soup on the first visit had a richer broth. Someone in our party enjoyed the Tom Yam soup. Between us, we've had the mild mango sauce, Malaysian curry both with prawns and beef, basil beef and wok glazed ginger sauce with chicken as entrees. Each was absolutely delicious. I was impressed with the fresh vegetables in the entrees which varied somewhat on the two visits. We also shared a dessert on one occasion - ice cream in fried wontons. The house white wine was very good and there are a variety of beers including Asian brands. We were also very pleasantly surprised by the bill each time - much less than we would have expected from the quantity and quality of food. There are other Shorewood restaurants that disappointed us right from the start and we never went back after a couple of attempts. NaNa did not fall at all in that category. Shorewood has an over abundance of the same thing - "contemporary" American. We prefer places in Bay View and on Farewell and the Brady Street area. We are thrilled to finally have a really good and interesting restaurant right in the area.
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