560 Divisadero St
San Francisco, CA 94117
Dining date: 12/26/13
Nopa opened almost eight years ago but continues to be one of the more popular restaurants in San Francisco. That was never more evident than in my last visit; attemps to get a reservation weeks in advance weren’t successful and we ended up waiting just about 3.5 hours for a walk-in table of 6 (5:30pm-9pm).
The occasion for this dinner was a birthday meal for grandma; my cousins and I took her out. My one previous meal here was with this same group, a late night meal two years ago after a dinner at Marlowe. We overstuffed ourselves that night and weren’t able to fully appreciate the second-dinner; this return visit was in the works for a while.
Nopa’s most notable dish has to be its pork chop; in-line with that, all six of us ordered that as our entree. However, we still diversified things a bit with additional appetizers and desserts.
The meal began with a cocktail and an amuse bouche.
Lowland Dram Glenkinchie 12yr, Dolin Blanc, Allspice Dram, Orange Twist
Fuyu Persimmon, Honey Yogurt, Maldon Salt
There was a nice balance of sweet and tart here, made a little more vibrant by the sprinkling of the large-flaked salt.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Pumpkin Seeds and Currants
Slightly sweet, definitely rich with offsetting tart accents from the currants.
Housemade Pappardelle, Spicy Fennel Sausage, Squash and Celery Root Cream
The pappardelle had a nice texture showcasing the fact that it was made fresh, smothered in a creamy celery root sauce. The sausage had a sharp fennel flavor to pair with creamy squash – all of the components were good but the whole dish didn’t quite come together as well as we’d hoped.
Braised Duck Leg, Soft Polenta, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cara Cara Orange
This was a deliciously tender piece of duck in a rich, savory sauce. The polenta was luxuriously creamy pairing very well with the duck. Taken altogether, the bites were slightly on the salty side but still pretty tasty.
Grilled Bread, Nine Hour Bolognese, Arugula and Ricotta
The meat in the bolognese was a little bit dry but the ragu was about as flavorful as expected. Arugula was a nice bitter counterpoint, while the crusty bread soaked up all the flavors.
French Fries Harissa Aïoli
These were excellent; fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The harissa provided some extra depth.
Grilled Pork Chop, Carrots, Sauerkraut, Golden Raisins and Mustard Vinaigrette
The pièce de résistance, of which we ordered six. The flavors were as good as I remembered, juicy and with a lot of depth – slightly smoky, almost sweet. We did have a fair amount of variation of doneness from rare to medium-rare to medium though, with the rare being undercooked for my liking. I’m not big on sauerkraut so I didn’t care for the accompaniments as much, but I appreciated its attempt to balance out the rich pork. I just didn’t need it.
Blue Bottle Cocktail Vodka, Araku, Espresso
Loved this cocktail. A deep espresso flavor masked much of the alcohol – but you knew it was there.
Chocolate Pot de Crème Lavender Crème Anglaise and Buckwheat Cacao Nib Cookies
Ginger Spice Cake Burnt Honey Buttercream, Mandarin, Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese Ice Cream
Shaker Meyer Lemon Tart Brown Butter Ice Cream and Candied Sage
We split of trio of desserts (although got two of the pot de creme). The ginger spice cake definitely had strong spice and fresh ginger flavors, but my preference leaned towards the rich chocolate with the floral lavender accents.
This was a good meal at Nopa; however, there were some ups-and-downs to the meal. Maybe expectations were a bit too high – it happens after a 3.5 hour wait. The pork chop was still great, but we saw a lot of variation in temperatures amongst the six we had. The duck, fries, and desserts were also highlights. I do want to make a return trip at some point…I hear they have good brunch. I wouldn’t wait nearly the same amount of time again, though.