Today and tomorrow a few tips for all of you who may have trips planned to San Francisco anytime in the near future...or for that matter if you live there and this is new news. w and I just got back from her sister's wedding/drinking & eating fest there, and it was an awesome weekend, filled of course with massive amounts of ingestibles. Starting with one of the best meals I've ever had in "the City", today's highlight (with a couple more coming tomorrow).....
If you know your dates, or if you have a free evening coming up, may I suggest you get on the phone immediately and make reservations at NOPA. Our friend Amy here in Portland turned us on to this incredible place, and it was spectacular!
w giving off some Edward Hopper vibe at Club Deluxe.
Here's how we got to the end of this food marathon: We had rezzies at NOPA for 8, so of course a drink beforehand was in order. We headed to Club Deluxe, a small indie bar at the intersection of Haight/Ashbury. By the way, are the people in this 'hood ever going to get over the 60s or 70s? I mean, how many "smoke" shops do you need in one block? Anyway, Club Deluxe was a really cool retro bar and they served a pretty decent drink, although I would really like my gin gimlet with fresh lime rather than Rose's. Still, a nice spot for a little mood setting moment. Then it was off for a 20 block drive and the usual parking spot derby at NOPA...but where in SF is parking not a nightmare?
The Old Cuban being prepared for our drinking pleasure...slurpy! And the adult refreshment area!
So we showed up about 15 minutes early for our reservation, and since all the bar stools were full, we ended up on the corner back by the open kitchen. Turned out to be very serendipitous. We were slurping a couple of most satisfying drinks, including something they call an Old Cuban, which is kind of a riff on the mojito, not only very attractive but WAY delicious. Standing just at my back was the guy who was expediting orders out of the kitchen. I figured if anyone could give us menu guidance, he was our man. So when he had a break, I turned and asked what we should be taking a look at. Instead of giving me the "look, dude, I'm really busy right now" vibe, he couldn't have been nicer. Shoulda known it was NOPA owner Laurance Jossel who was working it right behind me. Very cool guy, incredibly proud of his locally sourced, organic ingredients, and the best menu guide we could've hoped for. After soaking in his wisdom we headed for our table to soak up our remaining cocktails and starters of Olive Oil Poached Albacore Tuna; a salad of Fuyu Persimmon, Peppercress, Walnuts, Pomegranates, and Blue Cheese; and their Flatbread of House Smoked Bacon, Caramelized Onions, Gruyere, and Radicchio which the guy sitting directly to me left was pimping hard. Turns out he was a good guy to listen to, as he was Ravi Kapur, who when he's not chowing down at NOPA is chef de cuisine (meaning he runs the kitchen) at SF icon Boulevard. Again a super nice guy to talk to, and he was spot on about the flatbread, which was like getting a whole smoky, piggy pizza. Also, the poached tuna absolutely killed, and I thought it was the best of the starters (although the others were excellent as well). Oh, and Laurence also sent us over a side of their über-delicious french fries with a roasted red pepper-feta dip that were really nice. A little thicker cut, yet crisp outside and perfectly ender, and not to be too redundant, but very potato-ey inside. Plus there is no fear of salt here, which is always a good thing!
The Olive Oil Poached Tuna starter.
Then it was time to turn our attention to the main events, in w's case a plate of Duck Leg Confit and Seared Duck Breast. w is a huge confit fan, but in this case the duck breast rocked the plate...so tender, perfectly cooked, Whoever's raising his bird is doing it right. Then of course there was my Country Pork Chop with Scarlet Runner Beans, Philo Gold Apples, and Greens which Laurence had been pushing when I was up at the counter, and Ravi chimed in about how good it was. Since I'm usually not one to argue with world class chefs, I went with it. Holy shit!! This shoulder cut chop was THE BEST piece of roast pork I've put in my mouth. So succulent and tender, savory and set off perfectly by the tender cooked Philo apples. Crazy!!
Pigging out on the Country Pork Chop...awesome!!
Then of course since too much is never enough, we went with dessert. One of the items on the menu, their Caramelized Apple and Cheddar Crisp also came with a scoop of Parmigiano-Reggiano Gelato, so you know I had to try that. Pretty out there with the Parma gelato, but not bad. We also ordered the pear Upside Down Cake with Honey Mascarpone which was a sensual knockout, and by mistake they also sent out a Pecan Tart with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. It actually was an error by our waiter, but when we pointed out that we hadn't ordered it, Laurence was basically "ah screw it, send it over" so he did and we LOVED it. Pecan pie on steroids, and the salted ice cream was so luscious...again, crazy stuff!
Oh, and the very well chosen wine list was filled with interesting bottles, both red and white, for any budget. I took along a bottle of 2000 Westrey "Reserve" Pinot Noir that was drinking absolutely perfectly and was well worth NOPA's $20 corkage fee.
You can really taste the local love in this food, not only in Laurence's culinary skill set, but in the customer vibe, too. Apparently NOPA is also a fave with local chefs, because when Ravi left, into his seat plopped the pastry chef from local hotspot Crush. When other restaurants are giving Chef-love it's always a good indicator, and this is place you've got to be hitting. Major thanks and props to Laurence and his wife/partner for treating us so well, and making some of the best SF chow I've ever had!!
The NOPA entrée menu (click on image to enlarge)