Nacional 27, located in River North, has been around for nearly a decade now. They have established themselves as a staple in the nuevo latin cuisine category, complete with a decadent drink list, latin music, and salsa dancing. I was invited to dine there recently to explore the newer items on their menu, an expansion of tapas, ceviche, and empanadas, along with their popular items. Our server Ruth was amazing. She’s been there a while, and her intimate knowledge of each dish and cocktail was astounding. She took great pride in explaining every item, the key ingredients, and what with it was best paired.
We sampled a number of their signature cocktails including: El Corazon – el jimador blanco, pomegranate, passion, blood orange, salt n’ pepper rim Chadwick – rum, pomegranate, ginger, habanero Summer Fling – avion silver tequila, st. germain, muddled fruit, yuzu juice La Jefa – bulleit bourbon, lime juice, agave sugar, a kick of cayenne and their ginger-infused white sangria (on tap!)
These beverages ran the gambit from sweet to savory, each with their own kick and each amazingly complex.
They have four types of ceviche. We sampled the ahi tuni with mouth-watering watermelon and spicy vinaigrette, and the smoked salmon with pequillo pepper, jicama, and roasted corn. These were served with a refreshing shooter that I would like to have taken home by the quart. It was comprised of mint, cilantro, pineapple juice and Japanese grapefruit juice blended to the consistency of a wheat grass drink, but with none of the gagging after-effects. Quite the opposite, it was a brilliant sidekick to the ceviche samplings, all served on ice.
We had a marinated chicken skewer that was just the perfect size, and juicy. Next came a mini lamb taco. Some folks don’t like lamb because it can be tough and gamey but this little number was dressed up in guava, organic agave, avocado salsa and the meat itself was tender and not a hint of game. We were served two of their empanadas, the queso (with pepper jack, cream cheese, roasted peppers & tomatillo salsa) and chorizo (queso fresco, pickled jalapeño crema) which make a great light bite or to share with the table.
We tried their beef medallions (which bring repeat business) and which were so good my dining partner almost didn’t share. Their grouper, served with tomatillo salsa, spicy green rice, was an eclectic flavor parade. One of my favorites was the last to come out, and boy did I have to make room. It was the grilled marinated skirt steak with crispy costa rican potatoes, salsa criolla.
For desert (yes, of course I’m not leaving without trying dessert) we sampled three separate items. They have an amazing flan (and I’m not normally a flan fan) that was thicker and richer in consistency topped with fresh whip cream. There was a chocolate shooter that as our server appropriately described as chocolate bliss, and a chocolate cake with gran marnier and a cream topping.
If it’s been a while since you’ve dined at Nacional 27 or you’ve never been, be sure to visit! You can drool over their menu online at www.n27chicago.com and go in person to 325 W. Huron.