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Jan 10, 2009 09:07 PM

[Phx] Restraunt Noca, 14 yr old food critic in the making

This is my third time dining in at the restaurant Noca. This experience cannot be explained with any word that I have yet to learn in my vocabulary.

We (my parents & I) chose to be seated at the chef's counter. I sat at the end, where I could get a good glance at what all the chefs were cooking in the kitchen. Being 14, i get alot of stares from the chefs, amazed at what I'm eating.

Before our meals we were served 3 different amuse bouches. The first we received was a homemade corned beef with a tiny rye bread toast. Second, was aa Poached Prawn with fresh grated wasabi and a ponzu jelly sauce, and third, special from the chef, an australian wagyu, the most amazing meat i have ever tried in my life.

Our family started with the Heirloom Baby Beet Salad, and the Roasted Sunchoke Soup. The Beet salad was elegant, with foam placed on the top, the beets, freshly cut. Then the soup, inside were three pieces of deep fried Foie Gras, wrapped in a Raviolini. The flavor burst in my mouth, steaming, amazing with the flavor of the sun choke.

Our second course, Duck Confit, and the Loster gnocci. The duck was something I would never have thought of eating, placed on top of a huckleberry waffle, smothered in syrup. (PS, my Mom is going to find this syrup - a bourbon barreled syrup out of Michigan) The lobster, fresh, with mushrooms and gnocci, perfect in flavor together.

Our main meal Duck Breast, and Braised Pork Tagliatelle. The duck, served with wild rice, pea tendrils, and a brandy cherry sauce, was cooked to perfection. During the meal. the chef, Chris, handed me a slice a truffle, which was jaw dropping, and I grudgingly had to share with the rest of the family, not something i wanted to do.

We finished off with yet another amuse bouche, a salted butter gelato. we ordered the doughnuts, with a delicous carmel sauce. We also ordered three different gelato: cherry, pistacho and salted butter. A great finish to an amazing, unforgetable meal, i hope to return soon :) Preferably for my birthday on February 11th, before my parents get to dine again for Valentine's Day.

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  1. My wife and I had the pleasure of being seated next to Smoketail and her family and can only say one thing: Look Out Howard Seftel!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ejs1492

      I think that Smoketail did a wonderful job with the review. I still struggle for words to describe my visits to NOCA. I saw no such problems in this review.


    2. your writing and eloquence (not to mention good taste) gives me hope for the future of america.

      1. It appears that Elliot has put the "chef's counter" into service. On my first visit, this was a topic that I threw out. As with much of NOCA, it is a work in progress. Changes are coming all of the time, and I am glad to hear of this one.

        Now, I won't ask you about a sommelier's wine pairing (because of your age), but hope that that was adopted, as well.

        Thank you for the great review. As if I needed any more reasons to return, you have given me another - the "chef's counter."

        Greatly appreciated. I see that there have been many changes (as there usually are) in the menu. Another reason to go back!


        8 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt

          The "chef's counter" has been going since early October at least.

          1. re: hohokam

            That was about our last visit. We were supposed to go in Dec, but wife was out of town, and I was in bed with a cold.

            Glad to know that Elliot has gone that route. Next trip, we WILL do it.

            Did they offer a sommelier's pairing with the "chef's counter?" That was another discussion that I had on at least the first two visits.



            1. re: hohokam

              Right - we went the first weekend it opened in August and there's always been an open kitchen with counter seating. I think Bill Hunt is saying he thinks they're doing chef's tasting menus now, but I'm not sure of that. However, we haven't been since the end of November.

              At the Stephanie Izard dinner at Digestif, she mentioned that they did a special 9-course tasting menu when she was at Noca - sounded fantastic.

              Thanks for the wonderful review Smoketail!

              1. re: Rubee


                You are correct. Going back to my first visit, the discussion was on doing something similar to what Alan Wong does at his King St, Honolulu, HI, location. There, the diners with specific reservations are seated at a counter, right at the kitchen. Compared to the two venues, AW's counter has a higher back, but otherwise is similar to NOCA's. Elliot indicated that a "chef's tasting counter" was something that he was considering. I cast my vote for it. Usually, this is an X-course menu, that is made up at Chef Curtiss' whim that night.

                Another Honolulu restaurant, Chef Mavro's, just a block away from AW's, takes the "chef's tasting menu" to the max. IIRC, they offer from a 3-course through an 11-course menu, with increments in between. The beauty of it is that you can pick courses from all other menus, and it's sized by the number of courses, and charged by the total number of courses. When I do a review, I have a couple dozen lines drawn all over the menu, to know what each of us had.

                Another nice touch with Chef Mavro's is that they offer two different wine parings - one is their regular and then a "reserve pairing," with higher-end wines. This allows "regular folk," who just want a well-matched glass of wine per course to have just that. Then, it allows winos, like me, to go with rare, possibly more obscure wines, also expertly paired with each course, at a premium price. My wife and I will usually do one of each pairing, and then do a mix-n-match between them. Sometimes, the "regular" wine actually pairs better. Still, it affords us to taste a lot of small pours with the dishes.

                Now, the general dining at the counter has been there, since we first visited. Then, the menu was the exact same, as the rest of the dining room, just close to the kitchen, with possibly more amuse bouches being offered. Now, considering the portion sizes, I'm not sure that I would want more. I still have yet to really save "room" for a dessert, however lovely they might be.

                Maybe I should have asked for a specific description of the "counter's" fare. I probably got confused, and also confused the thread - sorry.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  To answer the question of what is going on at the Chef's counter...Monday-Thursday starting at 8:30 and later by reservation only, there are tasting menus offered at the Chef's Counter. On Friday or Saturday, we can not offer that until 9:00 because we can not be super busy when Chris does special menus. The tastings menus start at 5 courses for $75 and go up from there depending on what the diner would like and the pairings for the 5 course menu is either $35 or $45. The items available on the tasting menu are not dishes that are on the standard menu and some of the wines that are offered in the pairings are not on the list but some stuff that I have bought because I like it. The first time that the seared foie gras was served in the restaurant was during a tasting menu and some other items that have been served have been the Kama from Kampachi and Bluefin, a bunch of different crudos, the egg yolk raviolo, etc. There are also different serving pieces that are used for those menus.

                  (as required to state...owner of NOCA)

                  1. re: Molto E

                    Great to know! I'm definiltely looking forward to the tasting menu on our next visit. Hopefully it's possible to request a dish - I LOVE that raviolo con uova; I'm thrilled to learn that Noca does it.

                    3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                    1. re: Molto E

                      I greatly appreciate that update. We will definitely be there and give it a go.

                      This was what I had assumed would happen, in time. It is great to know that it is reality.

                      Being great fans of "chef's tastings" and "sommelier's pairings," this is something that we are looking forward to. We'll just have to make sure that we do not get reservations too early in the PM.

                      Thank you for the information,


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