Nopa, Nopalito, and Cav (reports)
Last night I caught up with a girlfriend I hadn't seen in a while; we stopped into Nopa for a pre-dinner cocktail, Nopalito for dinner and Cav for dessert. All in all, a very enjoyable evening.
Nopa is, by far, my favorite restaurant bar in town. It's the combination of friendly, knowledgable bartenders, an impressive selection of liquors and house-made syrups, and a changing menu of delightful, balanced drinks. It's one of those places I can walk in and say "I want something like an Aviation, but more wintery, and maybe not with gin?" and the bartender will concoct exactly what I wanted but didn't know how to say. The bar bites menu is also great--we split grilled treviso with anchovy and lemon along with a poached egg, house-smoked bacon and bread dish. Note that the bites menu is only available before 6, when the kitchen officially opens and bar diners must choose from the main menu.
We sauntered over to Nopalito (just 2 blocks from Nopa, on Broderick at Oak) some time between 6 and 6:30 and were surprised to find no line--though by the time we left, it looked like a couple of people were waiting outside. Our favorites were on the appetizer menu--the taco de pescado al pastor (adobo sturgeon with ancho chili and chimichurri) and quesadilla roja con chicarron (crispy pork belly with guajillo salsa and jack cheese). Excellent house-made tortillas.
We tried a soup that was new on the menu that night, a light chicken broth with turnips, carrots and spring onions, that was a bit too light for my taste--I prefer the fuller, fattier chicken soup at El Delfin. Service was friendly, but like all brand-new restaurants there were a couple of stumbles. Not food related, but the restroom can only be accessed by walking outside the restaurant and along the perimeter of building, which wouldn't bother me at a taqueria with $2 tacos but wasn't what I expected here (and probably wouldn't be pleasant if it was raining). Also, the soup wasn't served with individual bowls--we had one big family-style sized bowl placed in the center of our table. It was delivered while I was away, so I didn't get to inquire if it was an oversight or standard for some reason, but they should definitely invest in some small bowls. Our server was friendly and helpful with pointing out her favorites. I will return to explore more of the menu.
Dessert isn't on the menu yet at Nopalito, so we visited Cav, where we had a lovely apple tart tatin and a couple of glasses of sparkling wine. I haven't visited Cav in some time, since the last chef left. I had liked her savory items, but hadn't visited the dessert menu. The tart was lovely, with beautiful caramel and a spoonful of vanilla whipped cream. I'd boot the dissonant cloud of sliced basil they dropped on top of the whipped cream, but otherwise it was a sweet ending.
Cav Wine Bar
1666 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117
306 Broderick St, San Francisco, CA