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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Peachy's Picks Washington DC: Nopa of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group-North of Pennsylvania Avenue Our Coverage Sponsored by Fresh Origins

Winning team of our friends Ashok Bajaj, Owner of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group and Executive Chef of Nopa, Greg McCarty

Fresh Origins is America’s leading producer of Microgreens and Edible Flowers. Combining the benefits of an ideal climate with a deep passion for quality and innovation, Fresh Origins products are sought after by the finest restaurants and top chefs. The farm is located in the picturesque rolling hills of San Diego County, where the near perfect weather allows for production and harvest all year. Fresh Origins produces almost 400 Microgreens, Petitegreens, Edible Flowers, Shoots, Tiny Veggies™ and related items. Many are not available anywhere else, with new introductions nearly every month. Fresh Origins products are on top of the finest cuisine in the world! Fresh Origins supplies distributors of specialty produce who serve fine dining restaurants and resorts nationwide. There are also a few online sources of their products available to private chefs and home cooks. Read our first Culinary Queen interview with Kelly Sasuga:

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You know you are the best when the only place in town that can compete with you is you-
in terms of talent, quality, service, consistency, business sense, personality and every thing else including that je ne sais quoi we look for
Whom You Know is immensely Patriotic, hence our expansion of Washington D.C. coverage, and don't miss our top recommended brands manufactured in the USA recently updated.  Before our recent trip to Washington DC in our restaurant planning, we honestly told everyone that our favorite was clearly 701, which was highly recommended.  Though we've had a lot of great experiences in Washington, no one has come close to replicating the kind of culinary extravaganza Ashok and his team strive for every day with the utmost consistency and drive to make you happy.  When you are really happy with something, you almost can be afraid to try more in case you don't like it as much and it ruins how happy you were.  By the end of the review it should be super clear to you that 701 now has a rival.  Nopa's the perfect place to go before or after a Verizon Center event - which is right across the street.  Who knows,  you may be more impressed with your dinner than you were with what you saw at the Verizon Center at this top American Brasserie in the heart of Penn Quarter.  We were.
If you know New York, everyone knows that Soho means South of Houston Street.  So, if you know Washington DC, you know that Nopa means North of Pennsylvania Avenue (and 701 is that restaurant's numerical address on Pennsylvania Avenue.)   When you arrive at Nopa you will encounter an atmosphere that's of an elegant rustic decor.
Looking in at the restaurant, this is what Peachy saw when she was seated.  The seating arrangements are beautiful and it's both classy and comfortable.  The Verizon Center happens to be across the street, and this is where everyone with discriminating taste dines.
When Peachy turned around and looked out the window, she saw a Smithsonian. (For their latest news, click here.)
Every fantastic dinner starts off with great wine (and it continues and ends with it.)  We think our pal Alex Milligan would modify that (and we would agree with) by saying "great wine from France."  We understand this wine is made by the same Cadillac family that makes the cars.
The 2010 Chateau Cadillac Bordeaux Superieur was a robust blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it was a great companion to the opening courses.  As you know, we always order an appetizer and an entree.  The most ambitious venues want us to try other courses...
We were first delighted with Chestnut and Celery Root Soup, which had terrific consistency and flavor.  Also, it was additionally highlighted by star bacon and parmesean, two components worth going a few extra miles on the elliptical for.  If this is on the menu when you visit Nopa, try it.  They are quite adventurous there and change their menu often.  Open since May 6, 2013, Nopa is the latest brilliant entry in the eight-restaurant Knightsbridge empire, which Ashok operates with beaucoup de passion, competitive intelligence and sincere care.  Ashok is simply always on the ball.  He visits all eight restaurants every day.  He returns his calls.  He answers his emails.  He greets you with a smile and is sincerely appreciative and says thank you.  To us in our experience, that is atypical behavior of restaurant group owners and large corporate entities and more aligned with an owner with a single venue; it's one thing that makes him and those around him succeed.
Next, Radish Salad in colorful cheer greeted us.  Its fresh components of cubed pineapple, feta and mint tossed in a lime vinaigrette were crisp and refreshing.  The citrus burst had a nice contrast to courses that preceded it and followed it.
Our third course was the Nantucket Style Smoked Bluefish Pate served with Black Rooster Baltic Rye (owner of this brand do email us-we understand your mom's recipe you've executed well).  This Bluefish Pate was one of the best aspects if not our favorite of everything we tried at Nopa, and it's not just because Peachy is a New Englander (yes, did you know she is not a New Yorker though she loves Manhattan.)  The smoothness and the flavor of that pate is in a class by itself and paired with that rye it was a winner.  We think Nopa should package and sell the Bluefish Pate for home use and mourn its passing in Peachy's stomach.
These three courses Peachy Deegan did not order and would not have ordered, but she is glad she tried them and would eat them again, especially the third.  She was starting to wonder where the food was that she ordered was when the next course arrived: Foie Gras Terrine, Espresso Dulce de Leche with Raspberry Gastrique Puffed Rice.
Highly creative, this was super rich in flavors that we wouldn't have thought would go together as nicely as they did.  We like how at Nopa the dishes are creative enough that innovation is there, putting flavors together that work, but are not so creative that you leave feeling ill which can happen at places that are trying to be different just for the sake of being different.  This dish is a definite experience.  If you are among the masses in Washington that goes out to eat because you are hungry, you might want to rethink that.  Do you go shopping because you need a dress, or because you enjoy the pure joy of shopping?  Do you go to a museum so you can see a single painting that someone tells you to see or because you like to explore what you might find?  We'd say you should go to Nopa definitely when you are hungry but also because of the amazing experience of dining out.   You will be able to walk it off shopping on M street the next day.
As you can see the Foie Gras is extraordinarily beautiful in presentation, and when you taste it you will see how the espresso shines through brilliantly.  It's almost like a dessert.
Course five was what Peachy ordered as an appetizer: Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Sauteed Kale.  We are glad to say the picture says they were snowed over in cheese-and that's parmesean from Italy (Talk about snow!  Looking out the window now we could only hope the snow was parmesean from Italy...) and you will need to take our word for it-these meatballs of pork buried underneath were superb and would trump many venues that concentrate on meatballs alone.  (Wouldn't you rather have great meatballs and the four prior courses?)
These meatballs were moist and stayed together with great consistency.
It was time for more wine by now so we opened our mind to a suggestion from the sommelier, who suggested this:
The lighting in Nopa is just perfect: it is bright enough to see what you'll eat and dark enough to have atmosphere.
This next dish was perfected by Executive Chef Greg McCarty at Nobu 57 and recommended by Grace Hightower DeNiro, Greg tells us (go see Grudge Match!): Chilean Seabass, Japanese Eggplant, Wasabi Caramel and Sweet Potato Puree.
Nopa served about 900 of these last May, so yes it is a popular dish and you should totally try it. Perfectly baked!  
The next item you will be glad to know is a permanent fixture on the menu:
Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Pear and Sesame are perfection and you absolutely have to order them.  Normally we don't even like sesame flavor but it's not overwhelming here and the pear enhancement is a great addition to a vegetable we love on its own.  Finally, we tried the Slow Cooked Salmon with Mushrooms and White Truffle Broth:
It was our favorite of the night (along with the Bluefish Pate) and it is true you can smell the truffles across the room.  You are almost going to cry when you finish the truffle sauce except for at this point, you really cannot eat anymore.  We even took a video of it:

So in summary with a little instrumental from AC/DC, this culinary machine keeps their kitchen clean.  
It's one of the best damn dinners that we've ever seen.  Dining in sophistication is great, you won't be able to wait because they'll knock you out with those American plates.  Those plates you'd hate to share, down to every last detail they care, though we've told you to come you should already be there.  If you thought the Capitals were shaking and the Wizards were quaking, Verizon Center goers you are mistaken because the real show has been taken:
You will be Ashok all night long!  (and now Peachy will remember how to pronounce your name properly, Ashok!)
This Cabernet was a terrific end to a phenomenal meal, and we can't wait to see what they do next.
We managed a couple of bites of dessert: please meet the Deconstructed PBJ: Hazelnut Sable, Vanilla Mascarpone Mousse, Concord Grape Sorbet (best part!), Praline Crisp and Wine Glazed Grapes (above) and the Coconut Chocolate Bar: Coconut Macaroon, Chocolate Bavarian (amazing!), Dulce de Leche Caramel, Milk Chocolate Caramel Ice Cream and Coconut Sable (below).
This American Brasserie in the heart of Penn Quarter is tops.
Peachy Picks Nopa!
Nopa is Highly Recommended by Whom You Know.
The Ellis family: Rich, Kim, Kristin and Jason.  We make friends with people that sit near us sometimes!

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