Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Little Fried Fish and Aioli Surprises at NOPA

We arrived in San Francisco quite ready for a foodie spree over the course of eight days and the 4th of July holiday. After a six-hour drive that included a stop off at Ridge Winery and nothing in our bellies but goldfish crackers and berries from the garden, we were very hungry and ready for a good meal in the city by the bay when we strolled on it to the packed and bustling NOPA on Sunday night.

The Amuse Bouche reminded me why I love eating in San Francisco so much. There are always surprising touches as diverse as the multistacked upon the hill neighborhoods to tantalize the taste buds. This one came immediately and consisted of two simple and plump cherries dabbed in a ship of lemon aioli and then re-dipped into sharp flakes of tart salt. Strangely enough the combination created the juicy and tangy essence of a creamy cherry vanilla ice cream without the cold. It was a wonderful gem of a surprise to begin the meal.

I have been on a Armagnac, rum, or Benedictine kick of late when it comes to cocktails so I ordered a Paradis which consisted of Armagnac, cardomana, and lillet blanc. The Cute Gardener ordered a more steep Quintessential which was made up of gin, gran classico and lemon peel.

I was thrilled to see Little Fried Fish as a menu item because I recently watched an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain dined with an Italian chef and they fried up freshly caught whole smelt heads and tails and all and popped them into their mouths. These were served exactly the same fried in a perfectly nubby yet light cornmeal that went perfectly with a slightly salty and lemony aioli. I noted that they really liked experimenting with variations of aioli here and I usually hate mayonnaise concoctions but didn’t mind these.  

My papardelle pasta was a hit spiked with mint, English peas and a fresh cream sauce made ever so savory with bits of spicy, tasso ham.

The CG, who always asks for his burger rare but rarely ever gets it served pink enough to his liking, finally got what he asked for. The meat though, was a little too clean, perhaps the result of a conscientious kitchen going so pure that they forgot the merit in a little bit of dirty ground into the more idyllic lot of the meat mix.

I did end up eating an awful lot of his fries in the end because they were served with an insanely addicting pot of pesto aioli: again I was surprisingly seduced by the may sauce that I typically can’t even stomach. Curious, and the reason why I left really liking the place regardless of whether or not I had to weather the tension of a fighting couple who was seated directly to my left who continued their passive aggressive argument throughout the course of the entire evening.

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