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Chef Curtiss leaves Noca

i just read this from Michelle Laudig's twitter feed. Wow. What a surprise.

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Noca
3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

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    1. That is news to me, and not good news either.

      I have loved Chef Curtiss' meals over the years.

      I wish the best for him, and for NOCA.

      Hunt

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        Probably has something to do with the rather uneven reviews of the restaurant of late.

        1. re: AzDumpling

          If you're suggesting a causal connection, I sincerely doubt a few Chowhound comments are driving staffing decisions at Noca.

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          Noca
          3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

          1. re: Dmnkly

            An interesting interpretation of my comment. What I am suggesting is that a less than committed chef perhaps is not as effective as a more committed one.

            1. re: AzDumpling

              I thought it was a pretty good interpretation for the way you phrased it! :-)

              But I take your meaning now.

      2. This may provide a little clarity.

        I love that they admit that Elliot went and bought McD's burgers for their drunk diners.

        http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bell...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lunchbox76

          Thank you for that link. Interesting material.

          Now, I have probably dined at NOCA over a dozen times, and have never, never found the portions to be small - even their foie gras dishes, and I can eat a lot of foie gras.

          Cool that Eliot bought McDonalds burgers. That was a class touch, IMHO.

          Also, sometimes a great restaurant will go out of their ordinary menu, for a patron. In Denver, at Tante Louise, Chef Michael Dagenhart sent a busser across the street to a fried chicken outlet, because we had M-I-L in tow, for a high-end French Chardonnay dinner, and she did not find anything on the menu, that she liked. They took it out of the box, and plated it like it was the main of the evening. Same thing happened in New Orleans, not that long ago. We were dining at one of Chef John Besh's restaurants, again with M-I-L. She is a very, very picky eater, and a server went a few blocks away to a Popeye's chicken outlet, and returned with what she wanted. They also plated it, as though it was their star dish that night. Totally different reasons, but the result was kind of the same - give the patron what they want. Let's just say that the tips reflected my joy at their gracious endeavors. Hat's off to Eliot!!!!

          Hunt

        2. Was Noca all that great a restaurant? Just asking, as I haven't eaten there ... I know Bill Hunt likes it and the Phoenix Republic food critic gave it 4.5/5 stars, but the Opentable reviews are pretty mediocre.

          For example, there are 340 Opentable reviews (changes daily as reviews > 6 months drop off and new ones added) and fewer than half rate their experience 'excellent' or 5* (150/341 or just 44%). Compare that to a place like Binkley's, where 77% rate their dining experience 'excellent' (125/161) or Kai, at 89% 'excellent' (116/130).

          Just askin' ...

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          Binkley's
          6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

          Noca
          3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

          9 Replies
          1. re: willyum

            I may be the sole voice in the void, but NOCA IS that good, at least IMHO.

            I have used OT (use it a lot, but more for travel restaurants), but think that I only did one, or two reviews there.Most of my writings were here.

            However, after the first 3 - 4, I was only reviewing the menus that night, as I had pretty much covered the other aspects of the restaurant.

            I would be more inclined to go with CH's reviews, than OT, which is rather quick and dirty, comparatively. Who can write a review of a restaurant in 133 characters? OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture.

            Still, there have been a couple of negative reviews here. Some might well have been valid, and I also believe that they stood nicely, with a few comments like, "sorry, but we have not encountered that." There were two, that were a bit odd, and cited some strange aspects, such as the location, that I am not sure about. One of the big complaints on one was that they dined on a Sunday, and the menu was limited to the Simple Supper. Personally, that is not my favorite way to experience NOCA, as I want the full menu to choose from. Not sure if perhaps NOCA should have made more mention of a limited menu, whether on OT, or via a telephone call. That is not my call, but maybe something that Eliot might consider. On a personal basis, I like to know that a restaurant has a special, or limited menu, when I book. Obviously, on certain "special occasion" dates, one can expect this, but it is still good to know.

            Though I am less a fan of Simple Supper, many here love it, so it must strike a positive chord with many. I just like the full menu, and we might do four apps. between us, and no mains on a particular night, with a particular menu.

            As you point out, I am a big fan. I cannot help it - they have always served me great, innovative food and wines, and at more than fair prices. The portions have been adequate, and we seldom have room for dessert. The cookies are usually never touched, until the at least the next evening.

            Now, all things considered, other than very good food, and excellent service (for us), NOCA is quite different than Binkley's, or Kai. Not sure that one could compare it with those two, though Binkley's does come closer to NOCA, than Kai.

            We dine in London a lot, and pitting Maize vs Petrus would be unfair, though both are owned by Gordon Ramsay. Maize is closer to NOCA, and Petrus is closer to Kai. It's not quite apples to oranges, but oranges to tangerines.

            Just my humble observations,

            Hunt

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            Binkley's
            6920 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ 85331

              1. re: AzDumpling

                And you thought that I was putting in a plug for Humble Pie???? [Grin]

                Hunt

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                Humble Pie
                6149 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85250

              2. re: Bill Hunt

                Bill, I have a lot of respect for your opinions, you seem like a refined gentleman in your posts, and usually if you strongly recommend a place like this it at least gets my attention and I'm likely to try it.

                But I also believe in large data samples (like > 300 OpenTable reviewers) ... looking again at the OT complainers the trends for those ranking Noca "average" or worse (ie 3* or less) seem to be comments like these (from the first couple of pages of low ranked reviews):

                "We waited over an hour for our food" ... "The restaurant was hot and noisy. Could not have a conversation without shouting. Service slow and unattentive" ... "Food was very good, but took a LONG time to get to the table ... two hours to get a dish of pasta to the table" ... "Food was good, but came VERY SLOWLY. We waited for 45 minutes between our salad and entree"

                I can see why this would be very frustrating for a chef, knowing he cannot churn out the plates fast enough to keep many dinners' meals flowing smoothly, which may be part of the reason the chef left. Seems like they need a bigger kitchen or more cooks, or maybe fewer tables.

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                Noca
                3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                1. re: willyum

                  As stated in nearly every review, I do find NOCA too high on the noise-level for business meetings, or for intimate, whispered dining.

                  OTOH, I have never experienced what you cite. That is not to refute those posters, but only to say that I have not witnessed anything similar.

                  In our visits, we have had two mis-steps with wine service, but those were minimal, and on very busy nights. I think that I cited one, but did not do a review of the other experience.

                  Guess that I just enjoy them more than some?

                  Good luck, and hope that others will weigh in.

                  Hunt

                  PS - I rely more heavily on the folk on the various CH boards, than on TripAdvisor, or OT, or even similar, as they usually have done a review, and not just punched a few radio buttons on a survey form. - but that is just me.

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    Bill, you have to admit that you get FOH service while many others may not.

                    1. re: jock

                      Jock,

                      Not so sure, and especially in the first 3 - 4 visits, as no one knew who we were. Now, things might well be different, as we have dined there so many times, and for many occasions. That is also part of the reason that I only did reviews, when things had changed greatly. Otherwise, it was just recounting the menu and talking about each course/dish.

                      Same thing goes for Vincent's. We do get special treatment, as we frequent them so very much, and for very large events. I do not feel that it's fair to do a review of such experiences, as they are out of the "norm," though everyone should be treated the same. Sometimes, it just does not happen. That is why I have not done a review recently, but still do recs., based on ALL of our dining experiences.

                      Take care,

                      Hunt

                2. re: Bill Hunt

                  You're not the sole voice Bill, I totally agree! Have been to Noca about half a dozen times (first visit the weekend it opened - link below - and last two visits were a white truffle dinner and their late night menu) and Noca has always been in our top 3 favorite restaurants in Phoenix.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5345...

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                  Noca
                  3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

              3. That too bad about Curtiss leaving. I've eaten at Noca 3 or 4 times, and never been anything but totally satisfied. As for small portions, I always walk out of there totally stuffed. You want small, over-priced portions, go to Posh. I'm confident that Wexler will find someone to carry on the good work.

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                Noca
                3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                4 Replies
                1. re: ajs228

                  I never understood the small portion complaint either because the food is incredibly rich.

                  As a hefty eater, I have never left anything other than completely satisfied.

                  Unfortunately, too many people have been snookered into the idea that only huge portions of food makes the food satisfying.

                  1. re: Seth Chadwick

                    Its the Cheescake Factory/Claim Jumperification of restaurants. Couldn't agree more that portion sizes at Noca are just right.

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                    Noca
                    3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                    1. re: avandelay

                      I agree.

                      A couple of years ago, we dined at a lovely steakhouse in Nashville twice on a trip.

                      The first evening, my wife and I ordered pretty much as usual - apps,, mains, sides, cheese course and then dessert. We had never dined there before, and the portions were gigantic.

                      Next night, we were guests, and I warned our host of the size of especially the sides. He insisted on getting two each of about 8, for a party of 12. After that meal, there were enough leftovers for a small town, even after my warnings. All of us were staying at the resort, so re-heating, and dining on left-overs were not likely to happen.

                      I pulled the GM aside (having met him the night before), and inquired about the various portion sizes. First comment was their lovely beef tenderloin. The smallest choice was the 10 oz, with a 16 oz "monster" as the other option. He allowed that most clients wanted a tenderloin that they could eat on for two more nights, and that his 10 oz were usually 12 - 14 oz, while the 16 oz was usually more like 20 oz! He had recently taken a 6 oz tenderloin off the menu, but was thinking about adding it back.

                      As for the sides (large serving bowls full of each dish), his comment was the same, "most of our clients want enough food to eat for most of the week."

                      At least, with a bit of pressure, they did have a great cheese course. Our server could not believe that we wanted ours at the end of the meal, but the fromagier was over-joyed that we did. Apparently, most want it before the meal?

                      Maybe I just travel too much, but at resorts, even when we have mini-kitchens, I do not want a ton of left-overs. I also do not go out to dine, expecting enough food left over to feed my neighborhood. I must add, that when dining at home, I have zero issues with leftovers, but not when dining out.

                      Guess that I am just the "odd man out" on this...

                      Hunt

                    2. re: Seth Chadwick

                      Seth,

                      Nice to see you about!

                      I actually have done more negative comments on overly-large portions in restaurants, than commented on too-small portions. Too many wish to have enough take-home to feed a family of six for a week, from their dining.

                      Even if in PHX, we do not want left-overs, and that goes 10x, if we are traveling.

                      For me, some of the NOCA portions are almost too much, but then we do dive into several apps, and crudos, so by the time that the mains come, we are starting to fill up.

                      Take care,

                      Hunt

                  2. I am SO GLAD I finally got around to dining at NOCA just before Chef Curtiss left. Our meal was fantastic and the service was very good. I looked forward to going there again for the warm toffee pudding with goat cheese gelato and lime zest, that dessert was an epiphany for me.

                    A culinary-trained friend of mine dined at NOCA just after Curtiss left and he said it was an unmitigated disaster on every level. Perhaps that is to be expected when a place is in transition, but you'd think things wouldn't fall apart immediately when most of the staff have been working under Curtiss for some time. Hopefully Chef Taylor can keep NOCA excellent, but I'm still bummed about this news.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: mwest9

                      This totally bums me out reading your post. I have been dying to give NOCA a try and finally the opportunity popped up to eat there this weekend for the first time. I'm debating cancelling my reservations I have for this Saturday if the experience could be a potential disaster....

                      1. re: sleepoveroverture

                        I had dinner at Noca, tonight. Chilled corn soup, a pomodoro pasta, ling cod, and strawberries and cream. The dessert was probably my least favorite, but, it was still good. Everything else provided the great variety of flavors and textures I've come to expect. I wouldn't hesitate to return.

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                        Noca
                        3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                        1. re: johnseberg

                          If we went and just ordered a main dish each and a dessert, is that enough food to leave feeling satisfied? I know people have mentioned portions before and that they are the perfect amount of food, but I get the vibe from their post that they are ordering the 4-5 course tasting menu.

                          1. re: sleepoveroverture

                            I've only done a tasting menu at Noca once. It was too much food for me(4 courses). when we go, we typically split a starter, enjoy our individual mains, and split a dessert. It's more than enough food. I'd say we're avergage eaters. I've never found the portions to be lacking.

                            johnseberg, thanks for the update. Our last visit was right before Chef Curtiss left. Good to know things are still good at Noca! We liked Metro under Matt Taylor so are looking forward to trying what he has to offer here. As others have mentioned Noca has always been high on my list for fish and seafood and I've told many I felt Chef Curtiss handled fish and seafood better than any other chef in town(I see in recent comments that other Chowhounds seem to share my sentiments on this). I hope the offerings in this area continue to be stellar!

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                            Noca
                            3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                            1. re: sleepoveroverture

                              I have always ordered the 4-course tasting, and tend to get lighter options (fish, and even the vegertable plate). I find it satisfying, but, I'm easier to fill up, at my advanced age. I can understand why some people think portions are small. Last night was the first visit where I actually felt a little bloated. I also think the portions *look* smaller on the large plates they use.

                      2. Desert Living Today just reported that Curtiss may be going to Fox Restaurant Concepts. Didn't specify which restaurant.

                        i hadn't seen Chris Curtiss at any of my several visits to Noca a few months prior to his departure, but didn't notice any difference in the quality of the food when he wasn't there. If anything, the kitchen was still on top of its game and seemed more relaxed too. Will be interested to see how things change with Matt Taylor.

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                        Noca
                        3118 E. Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                        1. Any recommendations (app, entree, and dessert) off of their current menu? I'm seriously drooling over the ribeye and I haven't even tried it!!