Saturday, November 15, 2008

Noca - Phoenix/Paradise Valley

One of the most talked about restaurants this year has been Noca. Chowhound has been rife with Noca reviews and they have all been gushing. Our good friend Winedubar has been many times since they opened in September and has regailed us with descriptions of her meals there. She can be evil that way. With all the job issues and related money shortage, we hadn't been able to try them until last week. Winedubar had been for their first "Lobster Roll" night and raved about it. Being a native Mainer and lobster roll lover, I knew I had to try it. It's currently available every Wednesday night. Now that our finances have started to even out, Tara and I decided it was time to try Noca, and picked a Wednesday. Since our friend Seth was still on his honeymoon in beautiful Montreal (or so we thought), we invited Winedubar to join us. She jumped at the chance.

The short review: Wow. Go. Now.

For those needing more verbosity, I'll do my best. I won't be able to do justice without pictures of the dishes we had. Everything was presented perfectly, sometimes playfully. Many were "deconstructed". All were even better on the palate.

Before the meal, we were each .given a palate cleanser. It had pomegranate fruit, a cheese, a balsamic reduction (which I think mine was missing) and something else. It was all served in a big spoon. It was an incredibly intense flavor and did a good job of getting us ready for the meal.

For starters, Tara had the new-to-the-menu Roasted Chestnut soup. Winedubar had the seared fois gras. I had the duck confit. I only had a couple small tastes of Tara's soup, but it was my favorite item of the night. I'm not sure I can even describe it. My taste buds just sighed in delight. My duck confit looked like a meat lolipop. The leg bone stuck out of a flattened hunk of perfectly crispy on the outside, moist on the inside duck. Juicy, salty, with a great crispy flavor. I wanted the rest of the duck. This was my close second for best of the night. Never having had fois gras before, Tara and I were hesitant to sample Winedubar's "meat butter", as she put it. The bites we had essentially converted us. Ultra-rich, it was as good as W desribed it.

For mains, we each ordered the lobster roll. I've been eating lobster since shortly after I learned to breathe. The lobster meat in the rolls was poached perfectly and is the tenderest lobster I've had in a roll. Mixed with various herbs and celery root, it was served on a roll that had been fried in herbed butter. There were lots of flavors going on, but the lobster meat wasn't overpowered. The texture of it all was outstanding. My only complaint is it isn't a huge roll, and I finished it in no time at all. More, please.

The lobster roll was served along with Duck Fat French Fries. You could definitely tell these weren't your ordinary specimens. They had a distinct extra flavor from the duck fat. I'm still not sure if I liked it or not. It was different and I had a hard time processing, as I was still blissed out on the lobster and duck. Tara and Winedubar loved them.

Minor update to the original post: Tara reminded me that I forgot to mention the sour apple cotton candy that was served between the main dishes and dessert. It was a big bowl of light green heaven. It helps that I love cotton candy. :)

Desserts were, for me, the weakest part of the meal, but that isn't to say they were a let down. Tara got the donut holes with three dipping sauces. This was my top dessert. The donut holes reminded me of the homemade ones Mom would make during our Fall cider pressing parties growing up. I'd thought about ordering them myself, but opted for the apple "risotto", I think it was. I'm can't remember all that was in it. It was good. Winedubar had the deconstructed cheesecake. Three round scoops of cheesecake filling, a pineapple puree of sorts, a pile of cinnamon graham cracker "crust" and drizzles of a sauce. It was good as well. I'm VERY particular about my cheesecake due to an idealized flavor and texture I had growing up. This was good, but it wasn't how I like mine. Tara and Winedubar had no such hangups, and both loved it.

Service was excellent. Our server is also happened to be a chef in his own right, just not at Noca. He was extremely funny and offered/threatened to give Tara a table dance, as we were celebrating her birthday. Thankfully, she didn't take him up on the offer. The host stopped by frequently to make sure everything was going ok. The restaurant was a bit noisy for most of the meal, but quieted down after a large party left. The dining room is very nice, with huge mirrors lining the walls.

When all was said and done, our bill came to $165 for the three of us. We had no complaints about the price. We were all stuffed and endorphins were running high.

We pretty much loved everything about Noca. Tara proclaimed it as the best meal she's had since we've been together. I can't really disagree. We ran out of ways to praise the meal on the drive home.

The best part is that we have reservations for their Simple Sunday Dinner next weekend. They are serving the sous chef's grandmother's fried chicken recipe. We've been assured by Winedubar that it's to die for. After having eaten one meal at Noca, we are sure we'd die happy.

1 comment:

Tara said...

All I can add to this is: OH. MY. GOD. We kept saying it over and over all night. Oh my God - the food was fan-freakin-tastic. Tim forgot to mention the amuse bouche, which was a spoon with several pomegranate seeds, a small slice of Camembert, a balsamic reduction, and micro arugula. After our main courses and before dessert, they also brought out a huge plate with sour apple cotton candy. We were sent home with little chocolate shortbread cookies, too. An excellent experience. We've eaten at several of the nicer restaurants in town and I would say this one wins hands down.