I didn’t have a hard time knowing where to eat in San Francisco thanks to EaterSF for a blog post on a public lecture on “What is California Cuisine?”Reading it easily convinced me to book a dining reservation at Nopa for their popular rustic, organic, and sustainable California Cuisine. My dinner at Nopa last month turned out to be a tasty and memorable one.
Pictured above is the Piggy Platter of Smoked Tenderloin, a Terrine made with Trotters, house-cured Lomo, toasted slices of baguette, and mustard.
My friend and I arrived a little too early for our dining reservation. As a matter of fact, we were about 30 minutes early. I checked us in with the Hostess anyway with the hope that we could be seated early so we could avoid the dreaded 50 degree evening weather. She gladly offered that we check out the bar scene while we wait to be seated. What a lively bar scene. Only in San Francisco is where you see plenty of wine glasses filled with wine. It’s the exact opposite of L.A.’s bar scene where artisan cocktails and craft beers rule. Indeed Nopa has a vibrant bar scene that starts one hour before the restaurant opens for dinner.
Instead of drinks, my friend and I went next door to Bi-Rite for ice cream. I don’t know, but I seemingly forgot that it was super cold outside when we got ice cream.
They do have a list of artisan cocktails to wet your whistle, but it’s the even longer list of California, European, and South American wines that seems to be the most popular with the patrons. $9 – $14 per glass seemed to be a fair price on boutique wineries that I never heard of. I liked finding that on the wine menu.
The restaurant is located in the heart of the Alamo Square; a nice, down-to-earth neighborhood far from the center of the financial district. It’s not pretentious nor is it stuffy. It plainly is an energetic neighborhood restaurant with impeccable food.
The small menu is dependent on what is season and what’s available from their list of Northern and Central California purveyors. Simple food with local, sustainable ingredients…The classic ingredients of California cuisine. But what makes Nopa different than the others is simply the culinary talent of its chef who brings backs a hearty meal to the dining table. In other words, flavor is big, a decent portion of food, and prices that are just about reasonable for the quality of the meal. I was surprise how the portion size is bigger than what I get in Los Angeles for the same price.
Pictured above are the Warm olives and bread made in-house.
The Mixed Chicory Salad was one of the most unique starters on the menu. Chicory leaves, an underrated vegetable, is oh so devilishly bitter. You really have to be mad to eat Chicory as a simple salad. My salad was surprisingly delicious and not as bitter as I imagined it would be. The Asian pears and the acidic vinaigrette nicely offset the bittery taste making it quite pleasant salad to consume.
My friend devoured the Cioppino without ever telling me whether she liked it or not. She must of love it, because her plate was bare.
Our server suggested that I substitute the Seared Steak for the Seared Duck instead. It was a wise choice, because I love this dish. The portion size was big and the duck was deliciously tender. I loved everything about this dish. The greens were a bit sour and the persimmon mousse had the right amount of sweetness. A forkful bite of a little bit of everything had amazing, bold flavors!
Dessert was equally creative and as tasty as the savory dishes. When in San Francisco, I always go for anything made with chocolate. My friend skipped dessert and I beelined for the Chocolate Pot de Creme with the Lavender Creme Anglaise and a Cocoa Nib Cookie. What a heavenly concoction creamy chocolate.
Nopa is now on the top of my list of places to eat in San Francisco. Like everyone else, I also see why this place became a popular restaurant.
There is a lot to love about Nopa like:
The service, which is outstanding.
The mix of Locals, Foodies, and Hipsters who made someone like me, a Southern California Tourist, feel like I’m at home.
The impressive cocktails and the wine list, which made me curious to drink everything on the list.
As for the food, it is creative. The menu is seasonable, which means there will always be new dishes to try and new flavors to tantalize your tastebuds.
The ingredients, which is fresh and organic from sustainable local food producers. I certainly felt good knowing that I am eating and paying for top quality.
However, of all things that I love about Nopa, I love that the portion size was back to almost normal size. Yup, no small plates here.