nopa experience

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I’ve always thought about writing detailed restaurant reviews here at crimsonic but always just defaulted to yelp due to its ease of use and ubiquity.

however, i had such a great experience at nopa last night, that i decided to pop my proverbial restaurant review cherry here.

for months now i’ve been seeing my friend violet’s tweets about going to nopa, her photos of things like burgers and bacon brittle, and hearing her tell me what a great spot it is.
i even started following her friend richie on twitter because of her post where he, i assume, sent her home with a burger bun she’d requested be held.
he’s got a fun blog with a question of the week, observations/thoughts, quotes from the kitchen (my personal favorite segment) and photos.

to get a little tangential, i must say that following some people’s blogs and twitter streams is like happily running into someone often at parties or “the regular spot” (wherever that may be for you – the library, a bar, the back of the bike repair shop, your local tattoo parlor): you feel like you kind of know them, you have easy things to talk about, and you want to know them more and have more things to talk about.

that said, when i walked into nopa with my man & no reservation and the hostess smiled at me and offered the chef’s counter, i was excited to finally meet richie of linecook fame and get to watch some of that quoted hilarity in action.

this is the finishing counter before the dishes get taken to the tables. I wanted to get a shot of six plates of beautifully seared halibut but I was too slow on the draw, and they’re super fast on the delivery. instead, I caught a burger with a side of greens going out with a burger with a different kind of delicious – fries. I’m sad I didn’t try the greens… I do love greens. I’m jealous.

It was so much fun to watch the plates get finished here – so much olive oil, pepper, and basil aoli getting poured, cracked and dished!

when we walked up to the counter, the team made courteous nods and I said to richie (I recognized him from his blog photos) “we’re twitter friends” and he and Ponder said “all right!” or “oh cool!” or something like that (now I’m following him too…) Ponder pointed someone out to me but it was a little loud and I thought he was telling me the foursquare mayor was there but he was telling me that sean penn was there (which I found out tonight in perusing tweets about nopa from yesterday). i’m really glad I didn’t hear him correctly or I would have been irritatingly star struck and might have missed some of the joy I got from my meal and observations.

Okay, enough jibber jabber. Here’s my list of favorite things:

– i don’t spend much time or money in upscale restaurants, but like to, a lot. i tend to feel a bit like a country bumpkin in there – especially when the amuse bouche arrives. I tend to get overly enthusiastic about surprise bites.
last night was no exception but it was about the salt. the yummy little salad on a crouton was served with a little finger bowl of malden sea salt.
i’ve heard of it, read about it and known of its existence for a while but have never been exposed to it in its raw form like that.
it’s beautiful! little tiny square crystals of salt. we played with those until our drinks came.

– i really liked my white manhattan – white whisky is really sexy – strong like, um, brown (?) whisky, but much fresher. [I’ll have to ask our friend Camper over at Alcademics about white vs brown/aged/whatever it’s called whisky.]

– we ordered burgers cooked differently – mine medium, his medium rare. and whaddya know, mine was done a touch more than his and had plenty of pink. i guess i don’t order the burger in upscale restaurants very much (that just made me think of that scene in the Nanny Diaries – no linking – if you’ve seen it, you know. if not, carry on and forget I even brought it up) but having the burgers turn out exactly right was unprecedented and made me happy. um. I think my country bumpkin in showing…

– the corn on the cob cooked in and smothered by house made basil aoli was freakin’ delish! cooking corn in a hot oven rather than steaming/boiling is a really wonderful way to make it.
and what a treat to have a little something sent out by the kitchen when I’ve only just met them! thanks guys!

– i love pudding.
and custard.
and panna cotta.
all things egg/milk/sugar/gelatin/cooked.
love them.
but, i usually avoid creme brulee because the few times I’ve had it, the predominant flavor was sterno, which I always attributed to the pastry chef holding the torch too close to the sugar, burning it quickly, rather than using the less hot tho less sterno-y front of the flame for a touch longer.
anyway, possibly flawed theories aside, I couldn’t resist burned honey creme brulee and figured I’d take a chance.
and I’m so glad I did – not a whif of sterno could be smelt and that dessert was out of hand (outta hand!).
burned honey – whoda thunk it?
the marinated strawberry on top was nice – a few more would have been even better!
I could have done without the short bread that accompanied – I’ve never been much of a fan of dry, crumbly sweet things. I save my dry crumbly for aged cheese. however, as far as shortbread goes, it was quite nice – great tooth & flavor, just not my thing.

– shan got the fruit galette with chevre ice cream and both were perfect. the ice cream was just the right amount of goaty, sour and sweet. and the galette was basically that perfect mix of sweet, light, flaky crust and fruit.

– my first sip of their house made earl grey cream liquor was stupendous.
subsequent sips wished for less coffee flavor and more bergamot. I mean, I’m a huge fan of earl grey and was expecting to be given a lot of bergamot and tea flavor. when our waitress told us of the ingredients (I think she said it had rum, tequila, coffee, earl grey and lots of other things) I was suprised by the addition of coffee but figured they knew what was up.
call me traditionalist but I want my tea based things to taste of tea, not it’s uppity younger cousin. (my mouth loves coffee but my stomach does not so I’m a bit bitter – much like the coffee I favor but cannot drink)

Here you see my earl grey cream liquor and three cooks – Ponder (grill master), Linecook (Richie) (sous master) and the oven master whose name I didn’t catch. The oven master had an awesome flatbread dough rolling technique that was fascinating to watch. He cranked out order after order of that flatbread and it was all made exactly the same. I know that’s how it’s done but it’s rare to get to watch it without being a part of the bustling kitchen stuff (I was a food service person for a few years in my youth – a chef once told me to “get out. get out while you still can!” and I took his advice and got into administrative assisting instead. a similar tho less smelly and less delicious profession.)

– the typeography of their menus was super fun but hard to photograph because it was curvy justified. here’s a section of the dessert menu – the digestifs and coffee/tea. Yum!

When we left we were so very satisfied and happy. My experience was everything I’d been hoping for and I’m looking forward to going back as the seasons and thus, the menu offerings, change a bit. We were so full and sleepy that Shan took a lil nap while we waited in the bus stop – you can see the dining room thru the glass so know that it’s an easy spot to get to and from! Lots of public transportation options!

Bonne appetite readers!
Merci nopa!

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