NOPA fails to meet expectations
(Please forgive my mobile phone photographs. This dinner was unexpected, and I neglected to take my camera with me on this evening.)
On a fun-filled evening at one of my favorite bars, it occurred to me that the time for dinner had long-passed, and I was voraciously hungry. But it was 10 P.M., which meant that our choices would be limited.
iPad to the rescue — we found NOPA showing as available and opened for dinner reservations, and quickly made the reservation. I had been wanting to go to NOPA for a couple of years now, but it just hadn’t happened as of yet. Tonight would be the night. En route to the restaurant, I updated my Facebook status: “So excited to finally try NOPA tonight w/ an awesome guy!” It immediately got three replies — and all raved about the pork chops.
As soon as I walked in, I was struck by how modern and open the location was. The decor was hip and there was a definite buzzing vibe in there, even at that late dinner hour. Many of the tables were occupied, and almost all of the seats along the cool bar were also taken. “So THIS is the fabulous NOPA,” I thought to myself.
The friendly host took us to our table, and we were given our menus. Everything read beautifully.
From the minute she approached the table, I noticed that our server left much to be desired. Interaction with the customers is a delicate thing, and in good servers, they make an artform out of this. While our server was not inexperienced — she was just one of those people that would never enhance the meal, and on her best day, she would not ruin the dining experience entirely. Neither K nor myself were pleased with her, but then again, it’s about the food, so we decided to order.
First up was the flatbread w/ bacon appetizer. It read beautifully, and the concept was good. The texture of the flatbread was great — but everything else lacked.
Where’s the bacon?
And what is with the umeboshi-like thing on top of the flatbread? The flavor of this was like Japanese pickled plums, and totally overpowered everything else.
First Course: FAIL.
Next up would be our entrees.
He ordered the tagliatelle and I decided to try the pork chops everyone on Facebook was telling me to try. We decided to split the I found myself getting a bit anxious as a place that cannot combine the right ingredients in a basic flatbread pizza has no business going near meat.
This is where I would end up making what would be a dire mistake. As both our entrees were delivered, so was the broccoli (pictured above). Looking delicious, my fork flew to that plate and took a bite of that dish first.
That broccoli was just all wrong. It was supposed to have lemon, anchovy and breadcrumbs. What I got a taste of was VINEGAR AND LEMON ONLY… and in such a huge catastrophic amount that it quite literally ruined my tastebuds right then and there. Water failed to make a difference; waiting it out was not helping. Everything from this point on tasted like vinegar.
Thus, my pork chop was sour.
Except I know food, and I know my meat. And even without functioning tastebuds, I can tell you two things about NOPA’s pork chops: (1) the meat quality was excellent, and (2) it was cooked to SERIOUS perfection. Even with my tastebuds telling my brain that this whole dish was sour — I could tell by the texture that had I been able to taste, this would have been an extraordinary pork chop. It was served with roasted farro, apples, and a sauteed cress concoction, which — of course — also tasted sour.
Our other entree was NOPA’s tagliatelle. Again, it reads beautifully on the menu: “House-made Tagliatelle, chanterelles, bacon, lemon and celery root cream.” As soon as it was served, it was underwhelming visually. I reserved judgment until I tasted it.
As expected, it was underwhelming. The house-made pasta was decent, but boring. The sauce? Boring. The ingredients were totally unnoticeable within the dish, and altogether, the pasta dish wasn’t salted enough, and lacked punch, or flavor, if you will.
If I have a pet peeve, it’s when someone takes you out for a great dinner and pays good money to do so, too — and the restaurant serves up something that makes the entire amount spent a waste. It leaves the recipient of this dinner in an awkward position. To rave about a dinner that someone buys you is always my aim, but NOPA made that impossible. But then to complain about a meal makes it sound like I’m ungrateful, which is also not the case. Like I said — awkward.
I am not one to complain about exorbitant prices so long as the food, taste, and experience warrant such prices. If you plan to charge top-grade prices, then you best make sure your servers meet that level, and your food is NEVER sub-par.
NOPA was all-around sub-par. Lucky for me, I still had a fabulous time and the conversations made the entire meal more than one person should be allowed to have. But the food?
Aside from what I believe was an outstanding pork chop (but won’t bet the house on it without having actually tasted it) — there’s nothing that would bring me back to NOPA. In a city like ours where good food is rampant — eating at places that fail to pair the right ingredients and flavors is totally unnecessary.
NOPA’s website is http://nopasf.com/. They have late night hours, and are open 7 days a week. Whatever you do – don’t get the flatbread pizza and steer clear of the ridiculous broccoli. If you go, do try the porkchops and let me know what they actually taste like.
Addictive Factor: 2/10
Overall Rating: 4.8/10