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Anyone been to Noca in the last week or so? (PHX)

Trying to decide where to take hubby for his bday Friday night. It's between Quiessence and Noca right now. I think it might come down to menu choices as I can't make up my mind. Quiessence has their daily menu up, just wondering if the Jan menu posted on the Noca site is pretty indicative of what they've been serving recently?

Right now, Quiessence has the edge based on the menu but I could be convinced otherwise....

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  1. I was at Quiessence a few weeks ago for a wine tasting event mid-week (I think it was a Wednesday) and the place was dead. The vibe in the dining room seemed pretty sleepy - not exactly what I'd want for a birthday dinner. If you compare that to my experiences at Noca, it's always been a lot more upbeat. On the food side, I'm sure you can't go wrong with either. Just my opinion.

    1. We were at NOCA on Saturday night. I do not have my notes handy, but will post tomorrow evening. Since I had done three reviews in a short period, I was abstaining from this one, but will relent.

      Will say that we took a cookbook author and two food critics from out of state and all loved their choices. Everyone was also very, very pleased with the wines and the service. Give me a bit of time - know you're under a deadline, but I'll do my best.

      If it's any help, I have to say that the cobia, the duck and the skirt steaks got very, very high reviews. I loved my foie gras, but that is par for the course. Everything got ah-h-h's, so it was great. I did notice that the menu has changed, and I would easily vote for the Chestnut Soup, if it's half as good as the last time I tasted it.

      I've not made it to Quiessence, so cannot compare.


      1. Based on what I've heard about Quiessence and eaten at Noca, I'd say food-wise you'll be thrilled either way. I think I'd give the nod ever so slightly to Quiessence just because I love the atmosphere at the farm. It's very peaceful and romantic, while Noca is more upbeat and cosmopolitan. The atmosphere at both is really nice, it just depends on what kind of mood you're going for.

        Oh, if you end up at Noca, get the soup, whatever it is. I've had three different ones so far and they were all fantastic.

        1. We've been to both which is why it's a hard choice. Actually Kai was the third option I was considering and my first choice since 1) we haven't been there since last Feb and 2) I wanted a more quiet atmosphere but they're fully booked for most of the evening. I booked a massage for husband during the afternoon after we (hopefully) go hiking earlier in the day(assuming the rain holds off til evening). I'm thinking he might prefer something more quiet afterwards. THe only thing we weren't thrilled about at Noca was that it was kind of loud. Fine for a normal night out but not sure I like that for a more special occasion.

          Tough decision. On the bright side, either way it should be a great meal.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ziggylu

            For quiet, the nod has to go to Quiessence. As much as I love noca, the last date I took my husband on, conversation was difficult. We both had to project our voices to heard over the music. Until the third glass of wine kicked in, I was self-conscious about all the hollering we had to do back and forth to make simple points. After the third glass, though, I didn't mind a bit ;).

            Quiessence is doing a 3-course couple's dinner with wine, $69, for the month of February. That's a bottle of Dos Cabezas Red, salad, the spaghetti that they hand-cut by chietarra, and a chocolate dessert.

            edited to provide a link to the menu -- http://quiessencerestaurant.com/quies... -- and to note this is a Tues-Fri offer only.

          2. Went to NOCA a week ago and can't wait to get back.

            Tried 5 plates and all of there were top notch. Foie Gras Torchon, Duck Confit with Huckleberry Waffle and Maple Syrup, Heirloom Beets with Goat Cheese Foam, Crispy "Bacon & Eggs" with Caramelized Onion Jam, and the Short Rib Agnolotti. All were tremendous. Will be going back soon.

            1. I took my sister to NOCA for dinner two weeks ago, She's a foodie, as I am. We walked in on a Friday around 8:45 pm. It was packed but we were seated at the bar in the corner immediately. We had flawless service from Kristen (?) the rest of the evening, and from the rest of the staff, too. We shared a couple of starters -- the Nantucket bay scallops ($25!) and the beet salad ($14). These were delicious but $40 for very little food was a bit daunting. The scallops were seemed more reasonable in a sense. I had more trouble understanding why the salad was such a tiny plate.

              We followed with cobia for sister and skate for me. Again, outstanding but rather small portions. My skate was plated with some broccoli rabe -- just a couple of strands -- but the wing was firm, succulent and perfectly prepared.

              Oh yeah, the amuse bouche -- a tiny meatball in a savory marinara, served on a small spoon. Tasty; I'm curious how larger balls with sauce and fresh pasta would be, probaly very, very good -- the bite was so small that it was a bit cool when consumed, not at its best. The bread and oil were good.

              And the cotton candy -- blue that night -- we actually tore a few shards off mostly because we were hungry. I'd prefer they do away with this step.

              We shared a bottle of Arizona Stronghold white -- a chard/sauv/reisling blend. It was a good complement to the array we ordered and at $31 (?) an excellent value relative to markup from retail (around 20 bucks).

              I'm not big on desserts. Sister ordered the 3 gelatos -- nine bucks for three egg-sized dollops, but not out of line compared to, say, Arlecchino. Salted butter, chocolate, malted vanilla -- excellent. I splurged on a little glass of Sauternes ($13), which was fantastic!

              Elliott the owner stopped by to chat and since we had a good view of the kitchen I noticed at least 8 line cooks and one compact room accommodating -- what -- 60 people maybe? Everyone was engaged. I liked how the cooks -- several times -- tasted their spoons while they worked. With an open kitchen and a commitment to excellence I assumed the spoons were handled with full compliance.

              In the end: $166, $206 after tipping. At those rates NOCA is a special occasion place, not a neighborhood hangout. Too bad, especially these days. We were not that extravagent; it would be very easy for a couple to drop $250 or more. The food and service were great, but It was actually more comfortable (I think) at the bar than it might have been at one of the cramped tables. The kitchen counter looked the most promising, like Razz 's.

              If I had my way -- lose the cotton candy; i'ts dissonant, not cute. Serve a little more food so folks don't go away hungry, but keep the quality, passion, and attention to all the details. It's clear that the owner, chef, and the staff are committed to high quality ingedients, creatively prepared and served, and to the satisfaction of their guests. But Seth's enthusiam on another thread notwithstanding -- claiming a couple can come away for $100 (the experience he cited would have been about $150 after an appropriiate tip) this is an occasional place unless you are accustomed to spending several hundred bucks to a grand a week in restaurants.

              6 Replies
              1. re: misohungrychewlow

                We've been twice, and both times we spent about $100 before tip.

                1. re: misohungrychewlow

                  My enthusiasm you cite is found here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5925...

                  The difference between our two experiences vis-a-vis price seems to center around the alcohol. For our meal, we had two beers ($7.00 + $5.50), one soft drink ($2.50), two appetizers ($12.00 + $15.00), two entrees ($25.00 + $28.00), two desserts ($9.00 + $5.00), two amuses (comp), cotton candy (comp), and the two pieces of take-home shortbread (comp). The total was $109.00 (with tax $118.05). Tipping on the subtotal would mean a 38% tip to get you to $150 or 27% if you tipped on the grand total. If you take the beer out of the equation the total would have been $104.51 (including tax).

                  I make no assumptions regarding alcohol or tipping because the cost of both items is mutable and varies from person to person.

                  1. re: misohungrychewlow

                    I've been three times now, and can say that the price was right in line for both Seth and Miso. I've spent $50 per person, I've spent $80 on just me, and both times I left feeling like it was a great value.

                    I would be willing to bet that the meatball amuse was the kitchen testing out a recipe for an upcoming Sunday Simple Supper. If you go there often enough, sometimes you'll see what was an amuse one night added to the regular menu the next time you're there. If you found the price to be a tad steep, you would do well to check out the SSS: The regular menu goes away, and is replaced by three set courses for $35. If you're feeling a little extravagant, there's often extras you can add, either a bonus course or additional side dish.

                    And now this mention of spaghetti and meatballs has me thinking I should do that for dinner over my weekend (i.e. this coming Tuesday night). Either that, or the garlic bread level in my blood is getting low... and I know just the recipe: The one Lynne Rosetto Kasper gives in her book "How to Eat Supper".

                    1. re: misohungrychewlow

                      Actually, my friend and I went, 2 appetizers (duck confit, egg and bacon), 2 entrees (lobster and pork 2 ways) and one desert (doughnuts) with an amuse bouche for each and the cotton candy which we largely ignored... we split one bottle over dinner, and the grand total came to 87$ which we tipped heavily on.

                      I happen to LIKE the size of their meals, which i think are completely appropriate. So often you go places and the portions are huge, and you order a starter so you can get a taste but by the time the entree arrives you're full already.

                      I'm not saying this is the same price as say, carrabas or olive garden.. there are better deals to be had out there. But this is about what I'd pay for sushi or a good dinner out, and take the alcohol out of the equation and its actually a SMOKIN' deal imo.

                      1. re: hzp

                        I think you might have been given a discount - might want to check the receipt.

                        1. re: azhotdish

                          you know, i didn't even add it up until you said that. you're right. infact, it must have been a sizable discount, or just someone's mistake. huh.