On the corner of 3rd and Green Streets sits the newish Naya Restaurant at 212 E. Green St. You can’t miss the glass facade while glowing internally from the first floor of the 212 East development. This is one of the many newer high rises infiltrating campus. It’s a beautiful scene while unfitting of its beer-soaked surroundings.
It may seem like a strange spot for an upscale restaurant. For me, Chili’s was an indulgence in college. That may explain why the clientele weren’t coeds in cutoffs and flannels. They were mostly couples and professionals.
However, if you can look past the lack of parking and surrounding bar scene, it’s worth the babysitter fare. We street parked across the way—outside the Red Lion (formerly known as Station 211, formerly known as the Red Lion Inn bar). The name all depends on what generation you are asking.
My husband and I made reservations via the Resy app. There were no kids, no high chairs and certainly no kid menus. However, for a date night—this is a great place. The lighting is romantically dim so that a massive mirrored wall with sparkling alcohol bottles was the centerpiece. This wall was above the bar backdrop. Each shelf was underlit. This made the bottles look like jewels. The remaining décor is done in clear glass, touches of metal and warm wood. The bathrooms are in the communal area of the development.
The restaurant was full, but it was not packed. Naya is part of a trio of Champaign-Urbana restaurants. Sakanaya, Miga and now Naya. Each one has an Asian foundation. Each one has a unique spin. Naya touts Asian-Italian as its genre of cuisine—Italian food and Asian technique. I got much more of the Italian vibe than the Asian vibe, however. The chef of Naya was the chef of downtown Champaign’s renowned Bacaro. The experience and reputation are ever present.
The very attentive, very knowledgeable server explained the specials for the evening. The top billed entrée was burrata ($30). This Italian cheese is topped with white truffle and served on toasted brioche.
They have pages dedicated to beer, cocktails and wine. Some standouts were the Spiced Pear Martini with gin, St. George spiced pear and lemon ($10), left-handed milk stout ($5) and a non-alcoholic Italian Soda with tons of fresh fruit juices and fizzy bases ($5).
If you sit at the bar, you are served these Mexican wheel snacks made of puffed wheat. We were at a high-top table, so we ordered appetizers off the menu. Quickly, calamari with ginger, saffron and Japanese mayo ($9) and Japanese fried chicken with yuzu citrus mayo ($8) came out. Both were delicious. Although, I preferred the sauces flip flopped. Then came our romaine salad with crispy pistachios, prosciutto, shaved parmesan with lemon mascarpone dressing ($10). The salad was the perfect proportion of shredded lettuces/toppings. It was also a perfect portion to split.
Then the entrée came. We each had the pasta. It’s apparent the pasta is not from a box.
He got the Rigatoni Bolognese ($18). This tube pasta was topped with a slow cooked fresh tomato beef sauce and shaved Parmigano Reggiano. I had the Bucatini alla Carbonara—”The Roman way” ($14). This rope pasta had black pepper, crispy pancetta, parsley, pecorino cheese, and an egg yolk. You break open the yolk perched on top of the pasta, and you stir it together to create a rich, thick sauce. His was excellent. Mine was also wonderful. Many of the pastas offered a shaved truffle add on for $10.
Our bill was $64 plus tip.
If campus is a turn off for you, try this restaurant when the students are gone. I’d double check the restaurant’s hours, however. Typically, Naya is open Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday/Saturday 5 to 10 p.m. They are closed Sundays.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie. She left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in communications so that she could be a 24/7 mom to two busy boys. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Emily usually finds herself engulfed in balls, blue and belly laughs.