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NOCA (phx) opening this week

Seftel reporting:

The staff look amazing. I'm so psyched for this. I'm expecting it to rock as it's driven by one of us local food obsessed folk - not just another outpost of one of the local restaurant czars or an absent celeb chef.

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  1. you aren't kidding...noca will be fabulous, i'm sure of it :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: winedubar

      Im am psyched as well I basically live across the street.

    2. FYI- I wanted to go this week and Elliot called me back to say they are not going to be open untill next week. I'll be out of town, so they'll have to work the bugs out on someone else.

      1. Do they have a liquor license yet?

        Can we byob?????

        1 Reply
        1. re: duck833

          There is a liquor license and unfortunately due to the Arizona law that changed in 1996 regarding BYOB as you probably know with a license there can be no BYOB.

        2. Sounds great. I never had the opportunity to try Circa 1900 when it was running, but have heard nothing but good things. Looks like I'll get a second chance to sample his cooking.

          1 Reply
          1. re: crsin

            Circa was wonderful.

            I wish the BYOB laws were different. Here's hoping for a good and reasonably priced wine list. I frequent restaurants as much for the wine as I do the food. (well, almost)

          2. I want this: a Berkshire pork chop and pork belly duo with rosemary-accented spaetzle RIGHT NOW!

            1 Reply
            1. a bit annoyed.... we actually went down to NOCA on Friday, just stupidly expecting it to be open already with all the press its had (all mentioning that it would be open first week of July) and found it not just not open, but a peek inside showed it was quite a ways away. We settled for delux, and tried calling and the answering machine gave no further dates for opening, either.

              Too bad, we thought the menu looked fabulous.

              2 Replies
              1. re: hzp

                there should be an update on the date within the next couple days, waithing on the final inspection...furniture comes in following the final ;)

                1. re: Molto E

                  Wednesday July 30 will be the first dinner service...

              2. I just read on another site that NOCA will open on Friday August 1st.

                1. I stopped by last night and got the word first hand that Noca will be open for business Friday, August 1st.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JimboPhx

                    Now open. First impression is positive. Food was excellent. We ate both crudos offered, foie gras, duck, pork, donuts, and fruit. Service belied the fact that this was the first night of operation. Not even a dropped glass. I will return.

                  2. I agree with dynout above. We also went last night and had a fantastic dining experience. Even though it's just opened this week, everything seemed to run so smoothly. We've just recently moved to Arizona so weren't familiar with the well-known names and faces behind Noca, but the enthusiasm on this board was contagious, and so we made a reservation for last night.

                    The minute we walked in the door, we were warmly greeted by the friendly owner, Eliot Wexler, and seated right away. In addition to banquettes and tables, I liked how they had an L-shaped dining bar with one side facing the front window, and the other overlooking the kitchen. The cozy bar itself, IIRC, sat 6-8. As we perused the menu, I enjoyed a well-made Negroni while E had his usual vodka rocks with a twist. I loved the menu, every single dish appealed to me so it was hard to decide. I finally decided to do three courses, while my husband settled on an appetizer and entree. To start for me, the creamy foie gras torchon with fuji apple jam, Spanish marcona almonds and sprigs of fresh purslane, with toasted brioche. E ordered the melting sweet and fresh lobster carpaccio, topped with poached lobster claws, brunoise vegetables, and garnished with paper-thin fingerling potato crisps and lobster bisque cream. He mentioned ordering another one, and I KNOW he was only half-joking ; )

                    I had to order one of the crudos, and wow, this didn't disappoint. I had the kampachi ("baby yellowtail from Kona") garnished with toasted pine nuts and thinly sliced caper berries. We both loved it, and I can't wait to come back and try all of Noca's crudos.

                    For our main dishes, I ordered the chitarra with sweet Campari tomatoes and fresh oregano. I love this pasta - similar to spaghetti, but square instead of round since the fresh pasta is cut on a chitarra/guitar (a frame strung with wires). Dante in Boston does a great job with this, but I have to say Noca was a notch above - perfectly seasoned, al dente pasta, tossed with a simple, but fantastic sauce showcasing the quality ingredients. One of the best pasta dishes I've had in a long time. E was just as impressed by his prime rib-eye with panko-encrusted poached egg and red-wine sauce. I'm not a big steak eater, but I could not stop sneaking bites. Eliot mentioned to us that he had picked up the ribeye at the airport that day, flown in from one of his favorite meat purveyors, Lind, in Chicago. It was just a perfect steak, melt in your mouth tender, with bites of the crispy and oozy poached egg and rich wine sauce really putting it over the top.

                    Of course, we had to end with the oft-mentioned doughnut holes with three dipping sauces - chocolate, dulce de leche, and peach puree with star anise. A bonus was the option for a vanilla malt on the side. Addictive, and I'm sure soon to be a signature dessert at Noca. Other delectable-sounding desserts from pastry chef Kriss Harvey (of Bartolotta and Robuchon) included a rich chocolate and banana pudding, vanilla malted milkshake with made-to-order chocolate chip cookies, strawberry shortcake, and a variety of gelatos.

                    Another reason we loved Noca was the energetic vibe, and the wonderful staff - what a friendly, welcoming, and knowledgeable group of people. One of our waitstaff, Robert, remembered us from a visit to Binkleys last year, Leanne was as sweet as can be, helping me choose dishes when I couldn't decide, and suggesting perfect wines for both of us (a Cab for E, and for me an unusual white wine from Spain, a varietal I was unfamilar with but I can't remember at the moment), and we enjoyed chatting with Eduardo and hearing about his Mexico City recipes. Eliot also stopped by the tables often making sure his customers were happy, as did the gracious Frank Schneider, formerly GM of Mary Elaine's, who impressed us with the care and thought he had put into the wine list.

                    Our first visit, but definitely not our last. Noca didn't disappoint.

                    3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Rubee

                      The wine from Spain that you are describing is the Raphael Palacios Godello that is offered as a glass pour.

                      1. re: Molto E

                        Molto, are we allowed to ask what your involvement with the place is?

                    2. Me thinks I'll have to make a reservation soon. The pork chop and spaetzle has me drooling.

                      1. Fell in love with Noca last night. Don't want to rehash too much, but I think I have a few unique things to add.

                        We called for availability last night (Fri) expecting not to be able to get in. Luckily, they were able to fit us in for an early or late sitting. However, if we wanted to walk in, there was a lot of bar seating, and a community table that could accommodate (which is good to know that you can walk in and get seated with not too much of a wait).

                        The things we loved about the place were the little extras. There are a few touches (surprises I don't want to spoil, so I won't go into details) that make this place a step above other places in town. For example we loved the amuse bouche. It was a great touch, that started the evening off on the right foot.

                        The chef was exploring the Molecular Gastronomy world, and some of our dished had elements showcasing those techniques (some foams and gelees on our fish, and "Pop rocks" on the amuse). There are times, when this isn't done right that these things just add novelty, and don't add anything to the dish - in other words: "All show and no go". Noca did it right, and these elements really influenced the flavors of the dishes, and added something special.

                        Some of the standouts we had were the hamachi (raw yellowtail with a tomato foam, and ginger gelee). It was really great. Prefect flavors, allowing all the ingredients to show off their individually, but still work well together.

                        The Papardelle with Lamb Ragout for our second course was fantastic. I have eaten a lot of pasta in my life, in some of the best restaurants in the world (including many places in Italy), and this ranks among the best pasta I have ever had.

                        We had the Pork chop, and Snapper entree's for our main courses. They were superb, but not quite as special as our two starters. These dishes (as will everything we had) certainly showcased the ingredients (we could tell that they were fresh, and carefully chosen for quality).

                        Desert was the donut holes with the milkshake (which you can add on for a small upcharge). I thought this was good, but I think I might order something else next time. They were delicious, but I think I would explore the other options on the menu, to find something a little more unusual. There were many appealing options.

                        Service was great. Present, but not hovering. Informal, but polished, and not casual. The space itself is nice. It wasn't too loud (which is surprising, since it there was a lot of hard surfaces everywhere) - but still had a good energy. Prices were reasonable. Not cheap by any means, but a good value for the quality.

                        This place is a gem. It instantly has become one of our favorites. In fact, although it is probably heresy, this place reminded me of an oft reviewed restaurant in Boulder that we love.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Booger

                          Not a whole lot to add here, another absolutely fantastic dinner at NOCA. I would like to call out that their french-pressed coffee was noteworthy, it really took the dessert course, which was terrific on it's own, to the next level.

                          1. re: Booger

                            Went back last night for the "simple supper" (yes, one week after we were there last).

                            Service was still spot on as expected. Everyone was gracious, and thanked us for coming in (which is simple, but important to me). The normal stuff was done (glasses always filled, silverware exchanged), but we noticed some other great touches (holding the chair for the women in the party, walking us to the door as we left).

                            Standouts from our meal were the Sturgeon (which I have never had before, and found similar to swordfish). It was delicately seasoned, with a nice crust, and moist flesh - perfectly prepared.

                            We didn't have any crudo last night, which in hindsight, was a bit of a mistake, since that is so wonderful there. (You can add that to the simple supper for a small upcharge).

                            Also wonderful, was the desert, which was a Brownie, with a frosting of salted peanuts. Sounds simple, but it was done so well. I think the deserts are something special here. The pastry chef really knows what he/she is doing.

                            Our bill still added up (even on a "price fixe" night) - with the addition of some wine, but I still consider it a great value. It should be noted that there was a selection of "simple wines" which were $5 a glass. I think we would prefer to go on the regular menu night, and strategize our ordering to get exactly what we want, but keeping our bill low (after 2 visits, I think we know what we prefer off the menu).

                            Bottom line, another great experience at a wonderful restaurant.

                            1. re: Booger

                              Thanks for that update on the simple suppers. I think people we plan on bringing will especially like that.

                              We can't wait to go back. My husband is usually the designated driver and I asked him how he felt about going to Noca perhaps once a month, and making the half hour drive from N. Phoenix. He said "in a heartbeat". I'm so glad he loved it as much as I did.

                          2. I am dying to try this place & can't wait until I get my chance. I have been drooling over as many reviews as I can find & came across one saying this was a family-friendly restaurant? I have a 14 yr old, & two 9 yrs olds (all girls) who are major foodies. I would never have considered bringing them, but was wondering if they may be true?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: loriville

                              absolutely, bring them...while growing up, I used to go out to dinner with my Dad on Wednesdays to try new restaurants and that was a big part of my dining education

                              1. re: loriville

                                Personally I can't speak for Noca. But I can't imagine that being a problem.
                                When my children were that age they had already been to Thomas Keller's and Jean Georges restaurants and many in between.

                                I seriously doubt anyone would frown about their presence at that age.

                                On a side note. I admire any parent who exposes their children to great food and restaurants. In the age of McDonalds and Burger King this generation may never know the difference if parents don't intervene.

                                1. re: oysterspearls

                                  Exactly. My friend's daughter was exposed to fine dining early in her life. At six, after grilling some ribeyes, she told me that she didn't want gray steak, she wanted pink steak.

                                  1. re: Random987

                                    Don't turn your head if you have oysters, mussels or clams on your plate with my 4 year old daughter & her 4 year old cousin around. My niece seriously emptied a plate of oysters at Zinc when we weren't paying attention. : )

                                    1. re: ccl1111

                                      That is so cool! Just love seeing that.

                              2. I'm heading down to the Valley this weekend from Flagstaff and based on all of the excitement on this board, my friend and I booked a reservation at Noca on Friday evening. In addition to raiding every single Trader Joe's in town out of all of the items I can't get up in Flag, I'm looking very forward to trying out this new spot. Thank you for all of the great posts - it will definitely help with the ordering process!

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: Beaver Street

                                  Was in last night (Beaver Street - it was you I met you, right?) and was happily and totally impressed.

                                  Everything was fantastic. LOVED the crudo and the foie gras was so good I found myself grinning to myself while eating. I was sitting at the chef's table/bar and think I scared the team ably running the kitchen. :)

                                  The house-made pasta was absolutely great. Lucky for me they made me a mini portion of two (the little agnolotti stuffed with a pork/beef mixture were AMAZING).

                                  I finished with a gelato trio of mascarpone, pistachio and banana. Everything was really outstanding (surpassing my expectations which is always so great) and I will be back soon.

                                  The service and the overall level of impressiveness among the staff was also noteworthy. Refreshingly great service that you would go back for again and again.

                                  Thanks Eliot for your dedication and for bringing us a great new restaurant!

                                  OH, and one other great thing was that I saw Robert Stempkowski and he said Urban Campfire should be back open within a week or two!!!! Can't wait!!

                                  1. re: HomeCookKirsten

                                    Just adding another "NOCA rules!" to the ever-growing list.

                                    The tab can add up pretty fast but it's well worth it because the restaurant is using the finest products and creating amazing flavor combinations in creative ways. Service was as good as any I've had - silverware was switched out with every course, waters were constantly being topped off, our server was knowledgeable and everyone from the bussers to the coooks to the managers gave off a "I'm proud to be working here" vibe and all had serious attention to detail.

                                    Two of us shared the cold corn soup with chorizo croquettes, ahi crudo, a Spanish ham starter special ($20, I think it was the famous jamon iberico de bellota but can't recall for certain. We had maybe an ounce of paper thin ham, it was really good and one of those "gotta try it" things.), paparedelle, agnolotti and the doughnut hole dessert. We also had a really good Maysora "Jamsheed" Pinot from Oregon ($45), a glass of that same Pinot and a glass of sauternes. Our total with tax and tip was $200. Not what we had set out to spend but we had no regrets, it was fantastic from start to finish.

                                    The menu is so interesting that I want to try all new things next time but the one dish I don't think either of us will be able to resist is the agnolotti that HomeCookKirsten loved - really, really yummy.

                                    1. re: hungryinaz

                                      I wish the place would start doing a full-blown tasting menu ... maybe an 8 or 9 course one.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        I think the beauty of chowhound is that we know pretty quickly which restaurants/chefs (or in NOCA's case, investors) really value the opinions of the local foodies by implementing good ideas such as these...

                                        I've been out of town since end of July, and won't be back til October. Tried to get in before I left, but sadly, NOCA wasn't open. I am SO excited to get in as soon as I get back..... thrilled to hear of the success.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          We are most certain to have tasting menus available soon. I wanted to get the staff up to speed before opening that door in order to make sure that our guests experience at the restaurant don't suffer.

                                          Thank you -
                                          Chris Curtiss
                                          Chef of NOCA

                                          p.s. the tuna crudo that hungryinaz had was Big Eye from Hawaii :)

                                          1. re: norcal75

                                            Great, thanks for the info Chris.

                                            Can you give us a heads-up when the tasting menu is ready?

                                      2. re: HomeCookKirsten

                                        Yep, that was me! I don't have a whole lot to add, as I think all of the other posters have done a fabulous job reviewing the various items on the menu. My dining companion and I shared all of our plates, minus the appetizer because she doesn't like foie gras. Her loss!! It was amazing and I got it all to myself. My only regret was not saving any room for dessert - next time! I know that there are often out-of-town posters on the SW board who are coming to PHX for work and are looking for good places to dine solo - I think the Chef's Table/Bar that Kristen talked about above is a perfect recommendation.

                                        1. re: Beaver Street

                                          I am by nature cynical (its a flaw I know) and so when I see a place getting so much positive press I can't help but think that perhaps the hype is overdone. I frequently find myself going to places that have been hyped here and elsewhere only to think that they were only OK.

                                          I was also at NOCA Friday night and if anything it exceeded the hype here. The food was wonderful but beyond the food the experience was amazing. The space looks great and the attentiveness of the staff from the busboys to the general manager was really appreciated. I also have to comment on the music selection which I thought really enhanced everything. Maybe its just me but hearing Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers and classic Blues Traveler in one night really made the experience memorable. We will be going back to NOCA frequently.

                                    2. Love NOCA. Had a really enjoyable time and loved the food.

                                      Seemed kind of an unusual location when we finally found it. But once inside just enjoyed everything start to finish.