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When brothers Prentice and Christopher Berge opened Natt Spil in 2004, they had an anti-wish list of sorts: no phone, no TVs, no neon, not even a sign out front. “We asked ourselves, What’s really necessary?” Prentice recalls. “What can we remove and still do a great restaurant?”
The idea was to create an after-hours hangout that serves tasty bar food, the stuff you crave after a night in your cups. Thus the name: Natt Spil means “night play” (or, roughly, “after bar”) in Norwegian, an homage to the Berges’ Scandinavian heritage. The menu and décor, however, lean East. Prentice lived in Taiwan for more than a decade, and wanted Natt Spil to evoke a Taiwanese beer hall—hence the lanterns, saddle seat stools and moody red lighting. The tiny open kitchen churns out dim sum staples like shu mai (steamed dumplings) and shrimp cakes, but the restaurant’s signature dish is three-cup chicken, a classic Taiwanese beer hall dish so named for its delicious glaze, made from equal parts soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine.
The menu isn’t limited to Asian fare, and at first glance, the other offerings seem scattershot: mussels, wood-fired pizzas, a Middle Eastern snack plate. But the hodgepodge is deliberate. “It’s pan-global comfort food,” says executive chef David Oliver.
He and his crew make nearly everything in-house, from the sausage to the pizza dough. Whenever possible, ingredients are sourced from local producers, including Garden to Be, Black Earth Valley, Gentle Breeze Honey, RP’s Pasta, even mushroom foragers.
For a place with no sign, Natt Spil isn’t hurting for business. The restaurant is often cozy by dinner and packed by 10 p.m. “We have so many friends and newcomers who drop in,” says manager Matthew Stebbins. “The marketing of non-marketing has worked out well.”
• Natt Spil, 211 King St. nattspil.com