Thursday, April 20, 2006
The newest restaurant in the district just north of the Panhandle (NOPA) opened eight days ago. We went to the corner of Hayes and Divisadero to test it out.
Three of us waited at the bar for a table that wasn't in direct sunlight--the restaurant's giant windows don't have coverings yet, so many guests were seated and dining with sunglasses on. The cocktails are good and inexpensive; I had an elderflower lemon drop (minus the sugar rim), that didn't really taste either like elderflower or lemon, but it was delicious and refreshing. Dangerously drinkable. My future roommate had a tall mojito (that's the drink she measures all bars' measure by--boring, and bartender-unfriendly, but a good standard. If a bar's got a good mojito, it's not going to suck), and Valentino had a lemon-soda with Hendricks.
Our table was ready quickly and an army of workers showed us to it. A new restaurant, everyone's on the floor, and since the waiters dont' wear a uniform (besides jeans and a brown shirt), it was hard to tell who was who. The new-vibe was in full effect, with everyone rushing around with their eyes wide open, thinking "Oh shit! I can't believe we're actually doing it!" Everyone was very friendly and open about the new spot. I'm guessing about half the diners were curious restaurant people, like us. Every waiter, manager, and chef wants to be the first from their restaurant to check out a new place. Reporting back gives one a sense of pride.
The waitress (who was a friend of mine, we worked together at the Castro restaurant that just changed ownership) brought us a little amuse of breadsticks wrapped in bite-size salmon with creme fraiche and a little pot of fleur de sel for dipping.
We started with a flatbread (arugula, prosciutto, and green onion. I forget the cheese) that was excellent. Crispy and thin as flatbread should be, but they cut it in a wierd artsy zig-zag pattern that was original, but none of the pieces were the same size so it wasn't good for sharing.
I ordered the fritto misto and the seafood stew. I forgot that fritto misto was fried things, and I wasn't that hungry so everyone else ate them. The big winner was the deep-fried slice of sweet Meyer lemon. My future roomie had the pork chop (nice and simple with Tarbais beans and rainbow chard), and Valentino had the burger (so fantastic that he didn't say anything good about it: all the more to not have to share). I ordered the seafood soup, which was thick, spicy, red, and tasty. I couldn't really tell what was in it.
We had a few more cocktails with the meal, and everyone ordered desserts. The best were the creme fraiche ice cream with mandarin shaved-ice, and a strawberry-rhubarb gallete served with ginger ice cream. Bourbon creme brulee was pretty good (though it didn't stand up to the first two), and chocolate cheesecakey-thing was a total bust.
The best part was the price--all appetizers were under $10, entrees were around $15. We got out of there for $35 each, and full bellies to boot!