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Nopa: I like it.

pane | Mar 13, 2008 07:53 PM

At Nopa, immediately I scanned the menu, which read to me:

• Not pork chop
• Not pork chop
• Pork chop
• Not pork chop

My mother came of age in the 50’s; her pork chop, a weekly occurrence, was a sweaty, gray puck of meat, devoid of flavor or character. Even if I return to visit today and it’s pork chop night, my mother gives me double portions of sides and no chop, my distaste successfully advertised.

So when the bartender, the off-the-clock server dining at the bar, and my server responded to my query about the best dish on the menu with an unreserved “pork chop!” I was at an impasse. I’ve eaten brains, tongue, snake, mystery soup out of tin bowls on a Beijing sidewalk, and felt defeated entirely by the prospect of a pork chop.

But I ordered it. And it was one of the best meats I have eaten, ever. It was everything I like about bacon, in chop form: the piggy depth, meatiness, fat. It came served with potatoes, but I ordered fries instead, and experienced some of the best I’ve had in San Francisco: deliciously crisp, perfectly salt, a bit meaty (both in texture and flavor).

I’ve read complaints on this board that Nopa is too homestyle, and to you I say: you’re lucky that your parents cooked so well, and you don’t need to correct your misguided palate at a place that masters the classics.

In addition to the chop, I had the marinated squid salad, which was impeccable, and a lovely tart oro blanco granite. About all the food, I’d say that the recurring theme was respect: the pork chop was pork choppy, the squid squiddy, the grapefruit grapefruitty, unembellished and direct.

Another thing I noticed: the servers like it here. Probably like many of you, I notice the details at a restaurant: where the rabbit came from, the character of the wine list. And it didn’t strike me until today that I did notice, but didn’t register, the contentment of the servers.

Certainly I’ve gone to places and thought “These servers are miserable.” They seem to like it at Nopa, which translates to their enthusiasm about the food and their work. When I asked about the tenure of the servers and bartenders, the answer was frequently “Since it opened” or “Oh, two years. We don’t have much turnover.”

So that’s all I have to say. I like the food, and I feel good about eating here.

560 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

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