: views from the Hill

Saturday, December 23, 2006

[FOOD] Vienna Teng. NOPA. Independent

We listened last night to Vienna Teng at the Independent, preceded by a delish dinner at NOPA.

VT's intro act was The Animators, well, Devon Copley and Alex Wong, a street-stripped-down version -- the essence -- of the band. Alex played some backup percussion and glockenspiel for VT. VT played some backup piano for the two. And a fun time was had by all. I liked them a lot. His nibs didn't much care for them. Oh. That's what makes God's little green-blue world, though.

VT was wonderful as always. Such a voice. His nibs much prefers her live performances to her CDs, which he thinks are over produced and layer too much production on top of her unique voice. I like her CDs. More differences of opinion. Both of us agree, though, that live, she is marvelous. She has her patter down and she's comfortable on stage. Hard to believe she is a reincarnated computer geek educated at Stanford, but there you have it.

She sang for over an hour, including CITY HALL and MISSION STREET, LULLABY FOR A STORMY NIGHT for her sister. She closed with an audience sing-along of SOON LOVE SOON and we all scattered out into the night with our souls intact.

She's playing again tonight. She'd sold enough of tonight's show that they added last night's show, and happy we were they did. The younger younger nib is arriving in from Boston tonight after 11p and we're picking him up at the airport. We couldn't have made a show tonight.

If VT's ever playing near you, get tickets.

We grabbed the 15 to Market Street and then the 21 Hayes up to Divisadero, getting there precisely at 6p (as was our plan) for a show with doors that opened at 8:30p for which we had will-call tickets. Why so early? Well, we'd been planning on dinner or at least something to eat beforehand. Last December, for a VT show at the I, we'd eaten at the Bean Bag Cafe, a small joint at the corner of Hayes and Divisadero.

This year, as we were poking around on the Web in the afternoon, we realized that there were several new restaurants in the neighborhood that hadn't been there last year.

A new restaurant NOPA, which has got some buzz, had opened in the empty building kitty-corner to the BBC, a building which had been vacant with windows covered with butcher paper last December when we were waiting for the bus home.

560 Divisadero Street @ Hayes
San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone (415) 864-8643

Rather than make a reservation, we decided to show on their doorstep at 6p and see if we could get a table. If not, there were other places to try or the BBC.

NOPA's bar opens at 5p. Dining starts at 6p. NOPA has a communal dining table and bar dinner seating that are first-come, first-serve. If we couldn't grab a table, surely we could eat at the bar.

We showed at 6p and were told, yes, they had a table, but wouldn't be able to seat us for ten minutes or so. Fine. We watched while they set everyone up who had a 6p reservation and then around 6:15, they sat us mid-room at a table for 4. I'm not a mid-room sort of person, but a table for 4 means you aren't elbow to elbow with the person next to you so that was a plus.

Appetizers: (him) squash soup -- which turned out to be a beef-barley soup with bits of tasty squash rather than the ginger-squash whirl that so many do. Although it wasn't what we expected, it was tasty. (me) spinach salad with endive, slices of persimmon, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, a tasty bleu cheesy dressing. Delish.

Main: (him) pan roasted black cod on a lentil platform with chicory -- tasty (me) lamb, cooked medium rare. Sliced. Looked a bit like some restaurants' duck breast presentation. No bones. Drizzled with a mint/chopped garlic/onion/something sort of chimichurri sauce. Very tasty. Set on a bed of pureed celery root (cream and butter are such wondrous things). With a side of braised greens.

We had a bottle of pinot noir: ICI/LA-BAS pinot noir. 2002. Les Reveles. Ellee Valley.

Dessert: trio of sorbets: meyer lemon, blood orange, clementine. He was happy. I had a taste of each and a small glass of moscotel romano alicante (bodegas guitterez de la vega 2003) because they had no Bonny Doon vin glaciere. I like. Our charming waiter said he likes the moscatel but really likes the eiswein. Maybe next time.

See? Maybe next time already. Our meal was that good. Our wait staff was excellent. Always there. Happy to be there or a very good actor. Suggestions if you wanted. Not if you didn't.

The building is a transformed bank, with some other incarnations in between. High ceilings. Impressive support structures. We noticed the criss-cross beam bracing over the door for earthquake retrofit, which seemed appropriate after we felt the shake during the Vienna Teng performance.

The vibe is friendly. The food is good. The place got more and more packed as the evening wended on. We got out about 8p and walked across the street and up half a block to the Independent. I stood in the like ten people long line while his nibs picked up the tickets. Doors opened at 8:30p for a 9p show. By then the line was down the block and wrapped around the corner.

We got great seats at a club table for four. The couple sharing the table had been behind us in line. The club, which is "intimate," meaning small, filled up and then standing and then more standing. The mix was geezers like us and YUPs and gen-Xers and more Asians over the age of thirty than I'm used to seeing at a club. VT's brother and younger sister were in the audience, she said. I didn't see her mom and wouldn't've recognized the sister at all. According to VT, the younger sister's almost out of HS. When I knew her, she was probably four or five. Time moves on, doesn't it?

If you're headed to the Independent for a show and want a nice meal beforehand, showing up on NOPA's doorstep at 6p will get you to the show on time with absolutely no stress. If you decide to eat after the show, NOPA serves dinner until 1 a.m., and the place was hopping at midnight as we waited (far longer than the twenty minutes MUNI claims for that time of night, but hey...) for a 21 back downtown.

Caught a 30 back to Washington Square Park and then walked home. The driver was a bit of a poophead. His nibs had pulled the STOP cord as we turned from Stockton onto Columbus. He yanked it again/again when it was clear the driver wasn't stopping at the Park. The driver stopped mid street and said, "Next time, pull the cord sooner if you want me to stop."

Huh? His nibs had pulled the cord like two blocks thataway back there! The driver must've been tired or having a hard night. He couldn't damper my mood, though.

Nice, nice evening.

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