nothing interesting.

day off.

I need some spring rolls. Spring rolls and a Tsing Tao. It's my day off, and strangely I was unable to sleep in today. My coffee was good, but coupled with fatigue, it's led to an unfortuante eye twitch. Nopa blew the doors off again this week--this time to the tune of almost 1400 covers in three days. (478+517+400. a side note--we stopped seating on the 517 night at 12:15...turning many away at the door. in a way i wish we had kept it coming.) Bodies were breaking down all over the kitchen, but somehow we were all able to keep pushing the tempo--finding new ways to keep the food moving out. The current crop of Nopa cooks continues to surprise me...the feeling of cooking with them i've only had twice before: cooking with Ginger at CCA, and cooking with Joey, Rossi, and Angelo at Va De Vi. The feeling you get is that we're working towards something bigger...a group that will graduate and find individual success...while carrying on the many lessons we're learning day to day now. If a crew not only tolerates, but misses each other when they're apart, something interesting is at play.

Last night, eating at CoCo500 with some of the crew, we spotted Michael Tusk (Quince) and Hiro Sone and Lisa Doumanni (Terra and Ame) sitting at the bar with us. (Us included, there were 12 stars sitting there.) Looking at those chefs, all who have achieved admirable levels of success in our industry, I couldnt help but think about how different my generations career paths have been. Is it important to go to Europe anymore? Is it more important to learn the terroir and style of where one decides to cook?

a bad meal.

It's hard to knock a restaurant that's just opened--there are toom many variables at play, too many personalities feeling each other out, and too little familiarity that those first few days (or weeks, or months) are mostly a mosh pit of bad service and poorly prepared food. Sometimes though, you see so many things slipping through the cracks that one has to wonder if it will ever come together. Last week the wife and I headed out to a newly opened "tavern" with a big time chefs name on it. We walked into a half sat room, and asked for a table--but were told there was a 45 minute wait. This can be frustrating, especially when there are open tables right in front of you...but I understand the need to pad things in the beginning. We sat at the bar, and the first thing I noticed is that this "tavern" doesnt have any beer on tap. Everything is very clean and white--nary a scrap of wood in the whole damn place. The servers were dressed fairly formal--slacks, white collared shirts and black vests. Add to that the unbussed empty tables, and the very, very bright lighting, and you had a strange sight.
The bartender asked us what we wanted to drink, and we asked for a cocktail list. He said he would get one, then wandered away to the other end of the bar. After ten minutes, he came back and asked if we were ready. "Um, can I see that cocktail list now?" He laughed this off and got the menu. I shouldve just had water, because the rocks manhattan he ended up making me was truly a mess. (and i didnt even ask for it on the rocks) We waited, and waited some more. The chef (not the big name, but the exec) came into the bar and cuddled up with a girl on the couch...something that seemed strange when one was trying to make a week old kitchen work. After the 45 minutes passed, I headed to the host desk--only to stopped short with "YOUR TABLE WILL BE READY SOON!" being shouted at me. I never even got the chance to ask about it in the first place....what if I just wanted to know where the bathroom was?

When the hostess came to get us, we asked to get our bar tab transferred to our dining room check...and were told that "we dont do that." We paid and were finally seated, and greeted twice...a sure sign of confusion on the floor. We saw the chef dip in and out of the dining room several more times....so many times in fact that my wife started to count. After placing our order for beers (no more cocktails, thank you.) we were informed by both servers that the kitchen was closing, and that we needed to order. We had been at the table for five minutes.

The menu had some good looking stuff on it...pissaladiere, clams and chorizo, etc. The mains were a little more confusing, as you could order fish or meat (22-48$), then add a sauce (3-4$...for fucking sauce) then add veg or starch. (4-7$) We decided to play it safe and stick with apps....ordering the pissaladiere and the piadini. I dont want to go into detail about how badly these dishes failed, so ill just show a picture instead, and let you figure it out.


In the end we just asked for the check...which had two drinks on it that we never ordered. Our server asked how come we didnt finish our food...so I told him what I thought was wrong. He replied that he would tell his chef--who was standing three tables away from us. The one bright spot of the evening was one manager who was scurrying around the dining room taking orders, bussing tables, and seating people. We told her that she looked like she was really working hard, and headed off to Globe.

and now, pictures.

nopa gave us beers.check please bay area invades nopa


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redredsteve said...

That food looks absolutely deplorable. The soggy-bottom pizza is the worst. What a waste of what looks like quality ingredients.

asd said...

I'm a big fan of your blog, although i wish you would write more often!

I recently moved to the bay area to work in the amazing restaurants around here, i lived in SF for a few months but ended up moving to oakland (its much closer to my jobs). I was curious as to whether you ever ventured to the east bay to eat. I'm sure its difficult due to having a kitchen schedule and a plethora of great restaurants in sf
but I'd love to hear what restaurants you like in the east bay.

BAMboozle said...

those plates (yours, not theirs) look GREAT. I love your blog. Very interesting to read.

Unknown said...

I saw that you ate/drank in NOPA on the day off. My wife and I arrived uber late Thursday and figured we'd go over even though we had reservations for Friday as well.

Simply incredible. One bite of the yellow eye beans and I looked up to my wife and said, "why can't this happen in St. Louis?" Then it was promptly topped by the freakishly tender pork chop.

I'd have said hello but I was packing away pork at 3:30 my time and I got wrapped up in feeling like an internet stalker.

You picked a great kitchen to work in and, at this point, for me, it's fighting it out for the favorite restaurant spot. In two meals there wasn't a single miss and I think we might just be back before the week is done.

kayenne said...

how could those sorry plates be any excuse for being only newly opened? looks like something my barely 3-year old niece would make should she be allowed in the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

That seems like a restaurant that isn't going to there there long..
My friends and I really appreciate your time in writing the blog, letting us in "behind the scenes" as it were,so we nominated you for a bloggie award...click onto my blog for info..
and thanks again for your view on the kitchen...and CONGRATS on all those covers!!

Anonymous said...