Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nakama - no signs of a recession here

Yesterday was DB~'s sister's birthday (happy 24th!) and she wanted to go out with some of her friends and the two of us to Nakama on the South Side. We made reservations for 6 of us at 8 pm (dining fashionably late, thank you) on a bitter cold December night.

We were running late, so we decided to valet the car, which is something I am loathe to do typically. The valet area was so crowded that the police officer on duty for extra security forced me to drop the girls off and circle around the block again. Grrr. After this extra loop, I gave the valet $7 for the privledge of him to hopefully not treat my car like the valets did in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

It had been a long time since I had been to Nakama, probably not since 2007. In my "previous life", this was a spot that my old group of friends and our spouses would go to for dinner semi-frequently, to the point that the co-owner Becky would come over and say hi to us when she saw us. I've since trimmed a huge section of those people, including my ex-wife, out of my life because I didn't like the person I had become. I equate it to the selling off of toxic assets by a bank. I had a little bit of trepidation about going there again, to be quite honest, but since DB~ had never been there I hoped I could "overwrite" my past memories with this night.

When I came in from the valet station, it was jammed solid with people in the bar area and waiting area. The people were spilling over into the raw bar/sushi area, which I'm sure made their dining experience less enjoyable. With the way people are constantly seeking the next hot spot or "it" restaurant, I thought that Nakama may have tailed off in business slightly, especially with the proliferation of teppanyaki-style restaurants in recent years. That's a big fat "wrong" on my part.

We were late for our original 8 pm reservation, so we had to wait until about 8:30 to be seated. The din in the main dining room was just as I remembered it. The clanging of the knives and spatulas. The hum of the overhead fans. The general loud voices of the all the diners. The periodic whoosh from the hibachi being lit up with a burst of flame from the chef, much to the delight of the patrons.

About 85% of the people were very well-dressed. This isn't a suit and tie/evening gown place; it's a place that you wear your clothes from Diesel, Abercrombie and Fitch, Dolce Gabana, or BCBGMaxAzria. Unless you're DBS and DB~ and you're wearing black dress pants and a black blazer from Macy's and gray pants and a shirt from Ann Taylor Loft. Most of the people are trying to be cooler than you -- dark black hipster glasses, sunglasses at night, cocktail napkins that some girls were wearing as outfits, guys with 5 o'clock shadows. I came to realization last night that most of the people probably were eating at Nakama and then heading down the block to the nightclub Diesel, because that's exactly what DB~'s sister and her friends were doing. (We did not accompany them because we are in our mid-30's and by 11 pm at least one of us is always ready for bed. Blah.)

DB~'s sister is the first person to get a repeat mention on the blog (aside from DB~ of course). The last time she was on the blog, it was when we went to Tamari for a sushi-Latin fusion experience. Asian food is not all she eats, I promise! DB~'s sister is a very quiet and reserved person typically, so naturally both DB~ and I were going to try and embarass her as much as possible last night. The first item on the to-do list was to get her to have a fancy drink out of one of their special panda mugs, but they were out of them and brought out a Buddha-looking vessel instead. Good enough. Then we ordered a round of Jager Bombs for the girls and us to put down. I won't ever tell her this verbally, but DB~ beat me by a millisecond in finishing the shot and slamming it on the table. The other 24 year old girls all delicately finished theirs and made faces while doing so, as DB~ and I laughed. At the end of dinner, I quietly mentioned to the server that it was her birthday, so they brought out a gong to set on the table and put a roman candle-sized sparkler in a bowl of ice cream while they sang Happy Birthday to her...of course attracting the attention of a good portion of the restaurant our way. Here's the Buddha-looking vessel her drink was served in:

The food itself was good as usual. You never leave Nakama hungry, that's for sure. All of us had some iteration of steak, shrimp, and/or chicken for our main portion of dinner. None of tried the Kobe Steak for $70 (!!!!). I've always been tempted to try the Chateaubriand, as I've never had it, but I was hesistant if that style of cooking it would present the best flavor of this choicest of beef cuts. At Nakama, and virtually all teppanyaki restaurants, you get an appetizer of either mushrooms or shrimp off the hibachi, a mushroom broth soup (which DB~'s sister wants me to reverse-engineer for her), a ginger dressing salad, either steamed or friend rice, and your main course. Nakama is a great restaurant, but it's not conducive to conversations aside from the people sitting directly next to you because of all the noise I described above.

It was good to go here again; I pretty much resigned myself to that being a part of my old life that I didn't need to revisit. But because both DB~ and her sister are such great and positive people, Nakama got a rebirth in my mind as a great place again. Happy Birthday to you and thanks for letting us be a part of your night with your friends...even if we are "old people".

1 comment:

  1. DB forgot to mention that as we were sitting at the table, Mayor Singlestahl himself walked right by us. We were very curious as to where he was going next... ~