Nacional 27: Back to the Future

On purpose, we left one of Pat Bruno’s reviews out of today’s review roundup. It’s a review of Nacional 27, which not only is a restaurant that we went to with our ex-boyfriend for our twenty-first birthday like five (billion) years ago, but is also a restaurant that Bruno had previously reviewed, all the way back in 2001.

Our hope was that Bruno would use his re-review to redress some of the shortcomings of his turn-of-the-millennium musings. Like the part where he actually denies the science behind ceviche:

The theory behind seviche is that the raw fish is marinated in citrus juice, which suggests the idea that the juice ”cooks” the fish. I don’t buy that, but that’s another story [emphasis added].

He just straight up does not accept that citric acid, i.e. that stuff in citrus juice, when applied to protein, denatures it in a way that precisely imitates cooking. Thus spake Pat Bruno, folks. The man does not buy it!

So we were thinking that in today’s review, he’d recant his 2001 ceviche creationism. But no — the only thing he says about Nacional 27’s ceviche is that the hamachi mojito and ahi tuna-watermelon were much better than the halibut and shrimp varieties.

Another interesting element from 2001 — if by “interesting” we mean “sweepingly scathing”:

While I find some of the dishes here quite interesting, I am also aware of more than a few shortcomings. I am baffled, for example, by what the kitchen is attempting. I see a friction that grinds uncomfortably between the concept of what should be enjoyable culinary craft and fanciful flights of inspiration, more than a few of which do not exactly pan out.

It’s worth noting that this is not the end of the review. He has more to say after this epic damnation of the restaurants goals, namely that the folks at Lettuce Entertain You should really redirect their focus away from all the seafood, which he compared to “dropping from the peak of a mountain into a deep canyon” (no joke: remarkably similar to the phrasing our college poetry professor used to describe a classmate’s sonnet!) and should instead turn their attention towards the meat offerings. He illustrated his point with this:

It was obvious after but one bite that I was going to polish off the skirt steak. Certainly skirt steak is not the best cut of beef around, but in its simplicity there is unflagging enjoyment. Tender, flavorful, juicy, the steak got an accompaniment of mashed boniato (a type of potato) with a tangy avocado salsa adding an extra kick of flavor. [2001]

Whereas today, the man who raised a call to arms for More Meat From South America! says, of his skirt steak:

As for the grilled marinated skirt steak, I have had better and I have had worse. This one was a little tough around the edges and lacked that deep, grilled flavor that I associate with skirt steak that I have had, say, in a steak burrito. A form of guacamole and a salsa cruda flanked the steak, and both were kind of boring. [2008]

We can’t help but wonder here whether Bruno reads his old writing before revisiting a previously covered restaurant, since today he doesn’t even touch on the seafood offerings.

Ah well. What remains consistent, even after all this time, is the inconsistency of the quality. The ice cream sandwich is “a joke,” calamari a la plancha was “squishy-bad.” Give it another seven years, Bruno, why don’t you?

Dinner dance [Sun-Times, 2008]
Nacional 27 [Sun-Times, 2001]
Nacional 27 [MenuPages]
Nacional 27 [Official Site]

[Photo via Nacional 27]

Nacional 27: Back to the Future