Nopa: I like it.
At Nopa, immediately I scanned the menu, which read to me:
• Not pork chop
• Not pork chop
• Pork chop
• Not pork chop
My mother came of age in the 50’s; her pork chop, a weekly occurrence, was a sweaty, gray puck of meat, devoid of flavor or character. Even if I return to visit today and it’s pork chop night, my mother gives me double portions of sides and no chop, my distaste successfully advertised.
So when the bartender, the off-the-clock server dining at the bar, and my server responded to my query about the best dish on the menu with an unreserved “pork chop!” I was at an impasse. I’ve eaten brains, tongue, snake, mystery soup out of tin bowls on a Beijing sidewalk, and felt defeated entirely by the prospect of a pork chop.
But I ordered it. And it was one of the best meats I have eaten, ever. It was everything I like about bacon, in chop form: the piggy depth, meatiness, fat. It came served with potatoes, but I ordered fries instead, and experienced some of the best I’ve had in San Francisco: deliciously crisp, perfectly salt, a bit meaty (both in texture and flavor).
I’ve read complaints on this board that Nopa is too homestyle, and to you I say: you’re lucky that your parents cooked so well, and you don’t need to correct your misguided palate at a place that masters the classics.
In addition to the chop, I had the marinated squid salad, which was impeccable, and a lovely tart oro blanco granite. About all the food, I’d say that the recurring theme was respect: the pork chop was pork choppy, the squid squiddy, the grapefruit grapefruitty, unembellished and direct.
Another thing I noticed: the servers like it here. Probably like many of you, I notice the details at a restaurant: where the rabbit came from, the character of the wine list. And it didn’t strike me until today that I did notice, but didn’t register, the contentment of the servers.
Certainly I’ve gone to places and thought “These servers are miserable.” They seem to like it at Nopa, which translates to their enthusiasm about the food and their work. When I asked about the tenure of the servers and bartenders, the answer was frequently “Since it opened” or “Oh, two years. We don’t have much turnover.”
So that’s all I have to say. I like the food, and I feel good about eating here.
560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117
I completely agree, although I didn't have the pork chop. I went last Friday night for my birthday. Parking was really tough in the neighborhood for our 8:30pm reservation, but we endured and boy, am I glad we did. We had the deaths door drink (or something like that) while we waited for a short time at the bar. I loved the energy in the place! Everyone who was here was having a great time.
We were seated upstairs. I loved it. The view downstairs provided a great vantage point and we didn't feel crowded, although it was still hard to hear across the table.
The two of us shared the flat bread - if I remember correctly, it was with melted leeks and a some ricotta salata. Perfect. Generous serving, just perfect for two.
Then, I had the chicken. Served with broccoli di ciccio simply blanched and dressed with a simple vinaigrette, there were also some pickled red onions in the mix. Yum. My friend had the duck. I can't remember the presentation, but it was completely gone, plate licked clean.
For dessert, we had the pecan tart and the citrus salad each came with a scoop of ice cream -- our waiter, without reason, announced that he was comping one of our desserts. I hadn't told him it was my birthday nor had my friend. He told us he enjoyed waiting on us because we "got" the food. He said a lot of people that come there just don't seem to be comfortable with the style. Anyway, that was a nice plus.
So, at the end, I felt perfectly sated. I can't wait to go back.
The problem with most pork chops is partly cooking, partly American pork. We've bread these guys to be so lean - the other white meat - that they've lost flavor.
Aside from well-purchased pork, the chops are also brined at Nopa which makes them fantastically juicy and flavorful.