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Novo - San Luis Obispo

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On my one night in the SLO area last Sunday, my girlfriend and I dined at Novo. The outside dining area is a very nice deck alongside a creek. On this early November night, the air was just cool enough where the heaters were appreciated, and made for a comfortable time.

We started with two items from the starter menu:

- Crab cakes. There were four of them and they came with a tartar sauce and baby greens. The tartar sauce had a nice ground mustard flavor to it. The dish was tasty, and I thought the crab cakes’ outside was deftly fried. However, overall this was probably the weakest of the four dishes we had, and I wouldn’t get them again. There could also be a little crab cake snobbery at play here, since I’m accustomed to really good Maryland lump crab cakes.

- Fresh shrimp avocado spring rolls. I think this was also four pieces (two rolls, each cut in half), which were accompanied by two dipping sauces: a soy-ginger and a spicy chili. We both preferred the soy-ginger sauce. I was especially fond of the rice noodle used for the outside of the spring roll. The vegetables within were all very fresh and crisp, but the shrimp and avocado were under-represented.

Then we had two items from the tapas menu:

- Prawns moqueca. Several large prawns were served in a deep bowl filled with very fragrant spiced coconut broth and diced peppers and onions, with a bowl of jasmine rice on the side. The prawns were cooked right and had nice texture and flavor. The menu described the dish as “Brazilian,” but never having been to Brazil, I would call it akin to a mild curry. This was my favorite dish of the night.

- Wild salmon. Seared and served over a corn salsa. The exterior of the fish was seared very nicely, although the inside had been cooked a little more than I prefer. It wasn’t overcooked, but I didn’t think in advance to request it rare. The corn salsa was flavorful and ample. This was my girlfriend’s favorite dish of the evening.

The soup of the day was roasted tomato, which sounded very appealing, but would have been one course too many for us that night. As it was, the four dishes we had were just the right amount of food for us. Bread service was good and came with sides of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. My two glasses of Aaron petite sirah – selected with the help of our waiter – were really enjoyable and complemented the food very well, and service throughout dinner was fine, with fresh plates and silverware presented with each course.

My only negative for the evening had nothing to do with the food, service, or other factors under Novo’s control, but was due to the mildly rambunctious neighbors seated a couple of tables away: a group of young twenty-somethings who didn’t know how to act and talk like adults in a restaurant. If I had a little more energy that night, I would’ve gone over and asked them to behave. As it was, it was just unwelcome noise that we tried to ignore.

Our meal at Novo was a great ending to a day of touring along the coast, and we were both pleased with our choice to eat there.

Recommended.

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Novo Restaurant & Lounge
726 Higuera Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

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