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Nov 18, 2007 08:38 PM

SF: Nua -- No thanks

Have been reading the reviews here for a long time and enjoyed many delicious foods from them. Here is my first review, hope it will be helpful.

Had a date night at Nua in early October. Though it was Columbus Day weekend and fleet, the restaurant was not particularly busy compared to the rest of North Beach. Between the two of us, we shared:
- Red crimson & Bartlett pear-marche salad ($9)
- Grilled baby octopus & chickpea salad ($10)
- Baby summer squash and seafood carnaroli risotto ($22)
- Porterhouse pork chop with crispy polenta ($24)
- A souffle ($8?)
- Another dessert that I do not remember ($8?)

The marche salad was refreshing enough, if a bit boring. Though the grilled baby octopus was flavorful, it appear to have never seen the grill since it lacked the smokiness that grilled octopus would develop.

Entrees only continued to go south. We were surprised at the minuscule portion of the risotto. It has an entree price tag but the size is comparable to an appetizer-size risotto at other restaurants of similar price range. We just sulked it up and assumed that this is a normal serving size at Nua. The risotto itself was short on rice (the first time I have encountered such a problem with risotto) and felt more like a thick rice soup than an actual risotto. When ordering the pork chop, the server noted that the chef recommends serving it medium and asked if we were okay with it, which we responded with a "yes." However, the pork chop arrived well done with not a hint of pink. It was also rather dry with not one drop of juice when cut (unlike the juicy pork chops at Myth or Bistro Jeanty, to name a few places that do pork chops well). So, both entrees were below expectations.

When we were 90% finish with our entrees, the risotto at the next table (who appeared to be regulars) arrived and theirs was twice the size of ours, no exaggeration. I asked the server about the difference in size when he was clearing the table. The server quickly apologized and later sent over the owner. The only explanation offered was inconsistencies in the kitchen. I responded that a kitchen should not be inconsistent to the point of where some servings are twice the size of others and that such significant difference in servings are unfair to patrons who have to pay full price for half portions. To which, the owner replied that the seafood is the most items of the dish and it is kept exactly the same in each dish. In addition, his exact quote was "you should be satisfied because I'm going take the dish off your check." If he was trying to chastise a patron for making a complaint, he succeeded completely, but if he was trying to apologize for his kitchen's inconsistencies, he failed miserably. The verbal exchange had gotten rather uncomfortable at this point and I decided not to further pursue it because my date is not a confrontational person. Had I continue this conversation, I know he would become very uncomfortable and our otherwise wonderful evening would be ruined. In the unlikely event that the owner of Nua reads this review, please let me remind you that a risotto is first and foremost a rice dish. The seafood may be the most expensive component but it is still nonetheless just an accompaniment, the rice is the main ingredient. When the rice is reduced by half, the balance of this dish was thrown off. It became a thick seafood with rice soup, instead of a creamy risotto with seafood. More importantly, never tell a customer that s/he should be satisfied because you are removing an item from the tab. The customer is here to patronize your restaurant and ordered knowing the prices of the dishes, obviously s/he could afford to pay for it. Oh, the table of regulars also ordered the pork chop. Although I could not see the pork chop myself, I asked my date to spy and it was served medium, just to add insult to injury.

Despite the above exchange with the owner, we (or I) decided to stay and order dessert because the service from the server and busboys had been really good throughout the night and I have a major sweet tooth. The souffle was good but a tad too sweet and smaller than the ones at Range and Myth (though at about the same price). I do not remember what the other one was so I guess it was not that interesting and good. Should have just gone to Naia for gelato.

Total for the evening with 1 glass of wine, the risotto removed, and an 18% tip (because the servers and busboys really do deserve it) was around $90. Including the risotto, the dinner would have been upwards of $110. Even without the fiasco with the owner, I would not rush back base on the food. Good mid-range restaurants are a dime a dozen in the Bay Area, I would return to Range, Zuni, Myth, Perbacco, Pesce, Jeanty at Jacks, and so many more before I would even reconsider going to Nua again.

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  1. Went there once for an app of sardines with a glass of wine. Not too memorable, but friends have told me it's good, and I like eating out in North Beach.
    Too bad you had such a soured experience, the staff/managers do seem pretty inexperienced, yet with a knowing vibe that kind of makes me scratch my head.

    1. I went there 2 weeks ago and it didn't live up to my expectations (service and food), especially given the cost. It's my understanding that the original chef has left -- that may explain the issue. I won't be back unless I hear a major shift has occurred there.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Fig Newton

        My husband and I went to Nua last weekend. We ordered the octopus appetizer, pork chop and stuffed quail. We had the same pork chop experience. The waiter asked my husband how he would like the pork chop cooked. The answer: medium. The pork chop came to us well done (no pinkness at all). My quail dish was amazingly small. I left the restaurant very hungry. We went off and had a pastry at Stella's after the dinner. I haven't been this dissatisfied with a meal in a long time.

        Thank you for writing. I am wondering why it is getting such great reviews on another restaurant review site.

      2. We only stopped here for a glass of wine, but the bartender at a "wine bar" was not familiar with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Not impressed. (also, despite the fact that they are marketing this as a wine bar, there are only 6 seats at the bar.)