If there’s a restaurant whose dining experience is more coveted than a glance of Taylor Swift’s belly button, it’s Nopa. Located on Divisadero, its hip factor is established by default, but it’s farm-to-table looks and friendly staff keep it from feeling too pretentious.
Since moving into the neighborhood, my boyfriend and I have been trying to get a seat at Nopa, first at brunch and then at dinner. Unfortunately, both times (even though we got there when they opened) were 2-hour waits and we just couldn’t do it. However, this past Monday, we committed and were able to land a seat at the bar, and I mean a single seat – my boyfriend stood for most of our meal. However, this didn’t ruin the experience. The bartenders were delightful and attentive, and we were just so excited to finally see what Nopa was all about.
I started out the evening with the Summit cocktail, a gin cocktail with grapefruit, while my boyfriend had the Quintessential, another gin cocktail but with Bonal Quinquina. The Summit had an expected tangy kick that was evened out with some honey. As for the Quintessential, we weren’t really sure what to expect, not being acquianted with Bonal Quinquina, but it too was refreshing and sweet without being saccharine.
Wanting to try everything we decided to order an appetizer, an entree, as well as a small side plate, starting first with the warm goat cheese and berries crostini. The berries were rubbed with olive oil and the goat cheese, served warm in a ramekin, was topped with chives, salt and pepper. It ended up being a pretty substantial amount of goat cheese that by the end of the bread, we still had goat cheese! But no worries, we took the spoon to it…
For our main course we shared the fried duck leg with pinto beans, figs and chorizo, and a small plate of roasted squash with tzatziki.
The roasted squash was presented beautifully, with its deep green skin contrasted with what looked like some kind of pickled vegetable. But it’s flavors were too mild and ended up being overshadowed by everything else.
The duck leg was anything but mild. It was infused with the savory Mexican flavors from the chorizo and pinto beans, which were balanced out with the sweetness of figs. The most surprising part was that I’ve never been too big a fan of pinto beans since I think they lack flavor, but these were so delicious, I had every last spoonful. The duck itself was, as our waiter put it, divine. It was tender and tasted as if its coating was a kind of mole rub, which, as a Mexican-American, I appreciated. However, I do have to say that the figs were the best part of the dish. They paired so well with the rich, earthy flavors of the duck, beans and chorizo, and really brought the entire dish together.
Overall, it was a great dining experience. I recommend going on a weeknight and grabbing a couple of seats at the bar (once they open up), unless you want to wait two hours for a table (you could also make a reservation). During happy hour it feels like a fierce competition trying to snag a seat, but it’s well worth it. The plates are substantial and ultimately fairly priced, and the flavors are wonderfully balanced. I’ve had experiences at restaurants like Nopa that err so much on the side of savory that the dishes end up tasting salty. Luckily, Nopa knows the difference and caters to the palate perfectly.
We didn’t end up getting dessert (we were stuffed!), but I definitely look forward to coming back for brunch or even just a night of cocktails and dessert.
Have you been to Nopa? What were your thoughts?
Credited Photo Source: Thomas Hawk