First off, my apologies for having gone nearly two weeks without writing a new post. I have been tied up with work events and Bachelorette parties, and have not had a chance to cook anything new and blog-worthy. But, I have had time to go back to NOPA since my last post and I thought that I would share my evolved experience with you dear readers.
The first time I went to NOPA was about five years ago. I went with a friend in mid-June to celebrate our Gemini birth month. At the time, I was really not impressed by the place and didn’t think it was deserving of the hype it was getting. I thought the dishes were too small (I left feeling hungry) and too expensive. Maybe it was because I wasn’t quite as far into my culinary interests as I am today, or because it was a lot for me at the time to be footing a $65 bill (only half of the total) for some white beans, roasted chicken, and a cocktail with words I had never heard of, let alone could pronounce correctly. But I certainly remember feeling disappointed and it was quite a long time before I ever made an attempt to go back to NOPA.
I broke the streak when I went for a late post-show dinner with a friend a couple of years ago (NOPA serves dinner until 1am, so it’s a popular hangout for SF chefs and other night owls). We sat at the chef’s counter and sipped on Malbec while I devoured a plate of their famous broccoli and a poached egg over asparagus. I enjoyed the food, the environment, and the discount that our waiter gave us because of a previous tryst that he had with my friend. I then went again a few weeks later with a different friend for brunch. I had a delicious butter-basted farm egg and a couple of mimosas, and I started to see why people loved this place. The food was simple yet full of flavors and the freshest, seasonal produce. The service was friendly and attentive, yet not overly so. The cocktails were unique and delicious, and their wine list vast with an extensive offering of wines by the glass. Had I matured in my own culinary experiences, or did the restaurant itself improve? I think the former.
NOPA has since become one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, and GGD and I often frequent the bar for a late night cocktail, or the restaurant for an early dinner (they start seating and creating a wait list at 6pm). Our favorite place to sit is the chef’s counter, but last night the hostess escorted us to the upper level, to a table for two with a view right over the kitchen. We could see the head chef expediting, while another chef created plate after plate of the delicious-looking flat bread. And as the night went on into dinner service, we saw another chef laying out nearly a dozen plates of burgers on the counter – some with french fries, some with cheese and bacon, some with broccoli, or (in GGD’s case) with a half order of fries with broccoli (props to the chefs for being so accommodating with the burger sides). It wasn’t the chef’s counter, but it was truly one of the best seats in the house.
Because the weather soared up into the high 70’s yesterday, I was of course craving a glass of Rose to start off my meal. They only have one Rose by the glass on their menu, the Trousseau Rose Russian River 2012. It was light and slightly fruity with the perfect level of tartness – my kind of Rose. GGD and I opted to share the kale salad that we both love, complete with hazelnuts, tangelo and pecorino; one of my favorite vegetable dishes on the menu, next to the broccoli. For my main course, I decided to revisit the roasted chicken after all these years later, and because it just looked so damn good rolling on the rotisserie during my last visit behind the chef’s counter.
The roasted chicken had three huge pieces of chicken with crispy skin: the breast, the leg, and the thigh. It was served with some Romesco sauce and a salad of cucumber, croutons, pickled beets and feta. The chicken was so moist and tender, with herbs packed under the skin. I loved the refreshing side salad, and I even ate all the beets (which I normally don’t like)! Could this be the same chicken that I scoffed at five years ago? Or did they do something to revamp that chicken that I was so unimpressed with. I would like to think the later, because there is no way I wouldn’t have enjoyed something with feta in it. I also know that NOPA changes their menu frequently based on what’s available from the farms that they work with. So yes, let’s just say it was a different chicken dish.
It was another great meal from NOPA, and I love it more and more every time I go back – like any growing relationship. GGD and I toyed with the idea of ordering a post-dinner cocktail or dessert, but decided to save that for another time… which will most likely be this weekend.