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bettyjoan

Olivia (Formerly NoPa Kitchen + Bar), Penn Quarter - Chef Matt Kuhn Replaces Greg McCarty in the old Zola Space

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I hadn't seen my husband (or eaten a decent meal) in a week, so we decided to try something new for Friday's date night.  We headed over to NoPa with high expectations, having all of our wonderful experiences at Rasika in mind - clearly, we knew that the food would be different, but I think we figured the "bones" would be very similar.  I wasn't completely disappointed, but in my mind, NoPa still has some tweaking to do.

We sat at the bar, which is pretty small, but we found two seats relatively quickly.  Service at first was attentive-bordering-on-clingy - we barely had time to look at the cocktail menu before he wanted us to order.  I started with a very good "brasserita," which was spicy and tangy and really tasty.  Jason had a gin and tonic of some sort, but I'll let him post separately about what he thought.  I also ordered a strawberry-basil-vodka cocktail that usually comes with soda in it, but the bartender was happy to leave the soda out (indicating that it wouldn't make a difference overall), and it was very fresh.  I probably should have ordered it with dessert.  We got a bread basket early in the going, which had decent "regular" bread and some delicious rosemary pull-apart rolls.  The butter served with the bread was the proper temperature (yay), but it was unsalted (boo).

For our first round of apps, we tried the twice-fried chicken and the smoked salmon croquettes.  The chicken, for $10, was a drumstick and two thighs of delicious, perfectly fried chicken that was crispy (and NOT greasy) on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside.  All it needed was a little salt, and it would have been among the best I've ever had.  The homemade ketchup served with it was quite good, though.  I thought it was a great value.  The croquettes were technically well done, but they had more of a dill flavor than a smoked salmon flavor, which thrilled my husband and disappointed me.

Second round, we ordered the olive oil poached octopus and the duck confit.  The octopus was tender and cooked nicely, but it had way too much olive flavor going on, and I am not a fan of olives, so it was definitely not something I went back to over and over.  On the other hand, the duck confit was amazing - crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and PERFECTLY seasoned.  There was also a sour cherry mustard sauce that went perfectly with the meat (when we weren't just sucking the meat directly off the bone like animals).  Fantastic.

Jason had some beers and I had a glass of sauvignon blanc (neither were anything to write home about - didn't think their selection, at least draft/by the glass, was particularly exciting), and we noticed that service had definitely taken a turn for the slow.  Empty plates would sit in front of us for much longer, and other than the occasional, "Everything good?" there really wasn't much engagement.

I already knew, from research, that I was interested in dessert.  We ended up trying the fried strawberry pies and the maple pecan sticky bun.  YUM to both.  They each came with ice cream, but Jason will have to tell you about those - I was definitely only in it for the pastries.  The strawberry pies were filled with fresh strawberry filling that was naturally sweet, so it was great that the pastry itself was more neutral and you didn't get that super sugary donut-esque cavity-inducing thing where the dish as a whole is just too sweet for more than a few bites.  It was nicely balanced, and I would like to make some myself.  The sticky bun was just decadent.  Soft on the inside, though, and gooey and sticky and divine on the outside, with a few candied pecans sprinked on top for good measure.  It would be the perfect breakfast pastry, if it wouldn't give you an epic sugar crash about an hour after you ate it.  It made me think of my grandpa, who could never say no to a big ol' pecan sticky bun - he really would have liked this one, and I smiled while I was eating it because it allowed me to go back down memory lane and think of all the sticky buns we shared while he was alive.

So, 4 apps, 2 desserts, 2 cocktails and a glass of wine for me, and then I think 1 cocktail, 2 beers, and a glass of port for Jason, and the total before tip was $139.  I gave the overall experience a B-/B.  Dessert was a real surprise highlight for me.  With a few service and seasoning tweaks, this could be a great repeat place for us (ya know, not every week, at those prices, but for more special occasions).  Has anyone else been?  I'm sure Jason will pipe in shortly.

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I went to NoPa a couple of weeks or so ago. I had the chilean seabass which had a glaze on it that was like a miso marinade or a sweet soy glaze. It came on top of pureed wasabi peas plus eggplant, also in a similar glaze. I liked the seabass, but I thought the flavors of the eggplant marinade and peas didn't quite mesh well with the fish.

My friend and I had the same desserts as you. I'm not a big dessert person, yet I LOVED the fried strawberry pies. The pies were 2 turnovers served warm (plus the ice cream). Although they were fried, they didn't taste greasy, and the pastry was tender and flaky.

I had a bite of my friend's sticky bun. Ours was also soft, gooey, warm. It was too sweet for me (one bite was enough), but sticky buns are sweet after all.

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As Betty said, we decided to give NoPa a try on Friday evening. My first thought/fear when we got there was that its location would encourage it to lower its standards to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Unfortunately, upon seeing that one of its only eight taps dedicated to Bud Light, my fear was confirmed. However, to try and somehow elevate the thought of drinking Bud Light with brasserie faire, they charge the exact same amount for it as you would pay for every other beer on the menu, including some decent imports (except one, the domestic Goose Island Matilda XXX, which they charge $14 for and were out of, undoubtedly because there is always a certain segment that will buy the most expensive beer because it is the most expensive).

With that said, I decided to momentarily block the beers from my mind and go with one of NoPa's signature cocktails, the "800 F & Tonic," with house-made tonic.

Now, making your own tonic is mildly impressive, so I was hoping for something tasty. Unfortunately, in this case, "house-made" means "flat."

At this point, it may sound like I had a horrible time at NoPa. That is not true. I loved the rosemary rolls and butter that were brought out fairly quickly. I also really liked the fried chicked and duck confit. The smoked salmon croquettes indeed tasted more like dill mashed potato croquettes, but I like that. I just wouldn't pay for them expecting an actual salmon flavor.

I had a real hard time with the octopus. See, I LOVE olives of any kind. I can eat them day and night. To my surprise, that doesn't mean I necessarily like an olive reduction. This poor octopus, though well cooked, was swimming in an inky, briny sea of too much of a good thing. I found myself wanting to ask the bartender to rinse them all off and bring them back to me so I could actually taste the octopus and delay the ruining of my pallette with all the salt that was missing from the fried chicken...and then some.

Dessert was awesome. I will have to disagree with Betty on her issues with the two ice creams that came with our selections. I thought they complimented each dish well and stayed true to what they advertised. By the time we had dessert though, I had eaten the majority of the octopus, so my sense of taste could have very well been tainted.

Overall, seeing as how NoPa is new, I'd give it another chance, though not for a while. It needs to figure out what crowd it wants to cater to and stick with it. Also, it needs some time to work out its flavors. I would have had no idea NoPa was the product of the owner of Rasika. I have to hope that they are able to figure themselves out and provide their desired experience, given a little more time. There were so many good things about our experience, that it would be a shame if we couldn't come to rely on NoPa in the future.

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At first when I saw Nopa mentioned on twitter and etc, I thought a version of the SF restaurant had opened here and was uber excited. I haven't gone to the DC NOPA yet but, and I am not sure I can go and not be upset that it isn't SF Nopa which is one of my very favorite places ever.

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We ate at NoPa a few weeks ago. While our experience was good on the whole, I would say that it suffered in our opinion due to high expectations we had (Rasika, Bibiana, etc). I'd go back, but I think they have a bit of work to do.

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Review sprint: Twice fried chicken (just OK, oddly served with Tabasco-spiked ketchup), beet salad (good if you like beets -- goat cheese and truffle are nice accents); blue fish pate (made with cream cheese -- like a smooth whitefish salad, which I love); rockfish (solid dish, slightly "muddy" tasting rockfish -- all rockfish has tasted like that to me this year, so maybe my tastes have changed and I'm picking up something I never did before in this fish); banana parfait (best dessert I've had in a while -- too sweet, but saved by a good amount of nutmeg). Cocktails are not terribly inventive, but good; wine list is too expensive, but the wines included are excellent. Service was a bit weird, but gracious. Solid B+, should get 2.5 stars (the rockfish was a very well-conceived dish, making me think the other entrees are good, and the snacks/apps were great for the price); 2 stars wouldn't surprise me, but 3 stars would.

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When the bartender didn’t have the creme de violette necessary to make an Aviation, he called over to sister restaurant 701 nearby for the missing part. (Yes, the staff recognized this fan of the classic cocktail, but I want to believe that the crew would make the extra effort for guests they didn’t know.)

Hello in there, Tom. Tell me, what color is the sky in your world?

Anyway, Sietsema's 1.5 Star review is here.

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Hello in there, Tom. Tell me, what color is the sky in your world?

Well, I'm sure they'd do it for a Senator too, even if they didn't have a photo of him or her in the kitchen :wacko: .

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Hello in there, Tom. Tell me, what color is the sky in your world?

Anyway, Sietsema's 1.5 Star review is here.

Given Tom's introductory comments in today's chat, praising Pete Wells's critique of Daniel's critic pampering, I wonder if he would still write those words. That said, knowing the generally high level of service in Ashok Bajaj's restaurants, this gesture isn't entirely surprising, regardless of the person who benefited.

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Had dinner at a work event at Nopa last week and I left unimpressed. First, I miss Zola and its funky spy-related decor that used to inhabit the space. Now Nopa is a very nice place but it is synonomous with every other fine dining place in DC, nothing stands out special about its look.  Second, the food quality was high but it was really hit or miss with odd combinations of flavors that didn't mesh. My starter of hamachi tartare was nice fish with a mixture of tiny diced vegetables and jalapeno slices that went well, but then it had a blob of green cream on the side that I couldn't figure out what to do with. I'm guessing it was supposed to be a play on wasabi but it didn't have much flavor and took away from an otherwise tasty dish.  My main was salmon which again was a nice piece of fish but nothing special and the mushrooms that came with it didn't go at all (and I love mushrooms).  For dessert I ordered the coconut ice cream sandwich which turned out to be 3 small cream puffs filled with coconut ice cream. The ice cream was good but the puff shells were rock hard and inedible. Much better was the taste of chocolate cake that one of my table mates shared with me (but it looks like that is not on the regular menu). Unless I hear good things from others, I don't think I'll be going again.  Such a shame as the other restaurants in this group were very good and I have enjoyed for years (including a very good meal at Bombay Club last Monday).

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And now you know why these restaurants are all interchangeable.

When I last saw Jennifer Lucy, it was her second day of work at The Oval Room (this was a few months ago); I heard a couple weeks later that she had gone.

So now it's Matt Kuhn, but who's at Ardeo?

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Any reports since Matt Kuhn took the helm?  Along with China Chilcano, it's one of the possibilities I'm considering for a private function (approx. 36 people).

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Selfishly pushing this back up to the top, in hopes that someone here has been recently and might chime in.  The online reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc., suggest a real uptick since Matt Helm cam aboard, but of course those can be unreliable and therefore I'd love to hear what you all have to say.  Thanks

Any reports since Matt Kuhn took the helm?  Along with China Chilcano, it's one of the possibilities I'm considering for a private function (approx. 36 people).

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A few weeks ago, I dinned at NoPa for lunch and am now eating the leftovers.

The weekend before this lunch, I had a severe food allergy reaction that landed me in the ER.  Unpleasant.  I called the restaurant at 11:30 for a 12:30 lunch asking for advice avoiding my food allergy and to help me order "squishy" good as I still having trouble eating.

The chef made the most wonderful seafood soup that I have ever tasted, or quite nearly, and I just had it again.   Potatoes and quinoa served as the carbs and the base was likely a seafood stock or maybe fish stock.  It was flavorful and delicate with huge chunks of lobster and shrimp.  Crab meat added to the flavor as did the diced onion, herbs and sweet red pepper.

Now NoPa has spoiled me and my food-allergy-ordering-self.

If it was on the menu, I'd order it again.

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A few weeks ago, I dinned at NoPa for lunch and am now eating the leftovers.

The weekend before this lunch, I had a severe food allergy reaction that landed me in the ER.  Unpleasant.  I called the restaurant at 11:30 for a 12:30 lunch asking for advice avoiding my food allergy and to help me order "squishy" good as I still having trouble eating.

The chef made the most wonderful seafood soup that I have ever tasted, or quite nearly, and I just had it again.   Potatoes and quinoa served as the carbs and the base was likely a seafood stock or maybe fish stock.  It was flavorful and delicate with huge chunks of lobster and shrimp.  Crab meat added to the flavor as did the diced onion, herbs and sweet red pepper.

Now NoPa has spoiled me and my food-allergy-ordering-self.

If it was on the menu, I'd order it again.

I assume this soup froze well? It sounds delicious, and makes me want to order it - do you know for a fact that it isn't on the menu?

If a principal from NoPa is here (owner, chef, sous chef, GM, AGM - heck, anybody, actually) and wants to chime in, please do - this sounds like it might be a website favorite. I'd love to know the other ingredients as well, and how they're cooked. It sounds like it's the stock that "makes" the soup, and everything else that elevates it.

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I assume this soup froze well? It sounds delicious, and makes me want to order it - do you know for a fact that it isn't on the menu?

That is a very insightful question. For the most part the soup froze well with two exceptions. Potatoes ended up being a bit watery at reheating and the lobster chewy. However, it didn't matter because overall the portion was generous and the taste divine.

The only soup on the menu that day was squash soup and I was trying to convince them to whip me up a little dairy-free squash soup. They couldn't accommodate that, but this soup was amazing.

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With an American brasserie menu full of global plates spanning from korma pumpkin soup to falafel to a bowl of poke ramen, NoPa Kitchen + Bar was beginning to feel too unfocused for Ashok Bajaj. Citing Bajaj’s desire for a restaurant with “more of an identity” in the Penn Quarter space, Washingtonian reports that Bajaj’s Knightsbridge Restaurant Group will close NoPa on Jan. 1 for renovations and re-open with a western Mediterranean menu under the name Olivia on Jan. 10. Longtime chef Matt Kuhn will continue to lead the kitchen, Washingtonian reports.

I pulled this from Eater.

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Bajaj has decided that NoPa should now become a Mediterranean restaurant so he's going to rename NoPa Olivia.  Olivia, with a rustic Mediterranean menu, will replace NoPa Kitchen at 800 F St., N.W. in January.

An announcement from Bajaj’s Knightsbridge Restaurant Group said Olivia’s menu will be inspired by the flavors of Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy, Greece and beyond, paying homage to the flavors and recipes from the Mediterranean and North Africa.

Nopa executive chef Matt Kuhn will remain in charge of the kitchen, and recently spent time traveling throughout the coastal regions of Spain to study rustic Mediterranean flavors.

(thank you, WTOP).

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20 hours ago, Genevieve said:

Has anyone been to Olivia?

No but I looked at the menu while walking past. It's Mediterranian ...and across the street from Zaytinya. Not sure that's a good idea.

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On 2/13/2019 at 11:34 AM, Genevieve said:

Has anyone been to Olivia?

Bumping this up to see if anyone has been? I'm going for a business lunch on Thursday and curious what are some good dishes to try. 

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I went a couple of weeks ago, after a bloody awesome trip to the National Portrait Gallery. No lines for this portrait ...

PresObama.jpg

The Presidents' Gallery should be a Top 10 tourist attraction to anyone visiting DC.

We visited Olivia on a Sunday, between brunch and dinner (there's a 1-2 hour gap), and the kitchen was serving a very limited menu. Essentially, we just got a quick drink and snacks (you can get sandwiches, but we stuck with the pre-prepped items).

Here's a little snippet of menu:

Olivia.jpg

For drinks, the Olivia ($11) with Prosecco, Casoni Aperitivo, and Lillet Blanc, and a Peach Lavender Craft Mocktail ($8), with Peach, Cranberry, Citrus, and a stubbornly large piece of lavender.

Drinks.jpg

With the drinks, they brought a basket of two excellent rolls (and with our dishes, they brought another basket - we took two home). I can't imagine these weren't baked in-house, the same day - they were really good.

Rolls.jpg

Since we'd just seen a portrait of The M&M Boys ...

M&M.jpg

... we fittingly batted .500 with our dishes. 

A swing-and-a-miss was the Jamòn Ibérico de Bellota ($18), hand-carved, with an awkward Pan con Tomate. This was simply not good ham - it was excessively hard, arguably starting to turn south, and lacking flavor; the tomato bread tasted good, but was a very poor excuse for this classic Spanish side (note contrasting versions here).

Jambon.jpg

The, forgive me, home run was the Spanish Albacore Tuna Rillettes ($12) which came out of, forgive me, left field. This excellent dish was served with a (meatless) Charcuterie Salad, Nicoise Olives, and (an entirely absent) Seven-Minute Egg - they were clearly going for the Nicoise riff here, and despite there being no egg, this was a joyous salad that you should get if you see it on the menu.

TunaRillettes.jpg

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Had lunch here yesterday, it was ... ok.  The Mediterranean Spreads sampler was tasty, with the carrot hummus (tasted different and more flavorful than its name suggests) being the top star, with the tzatiki (with some roe on top) and an eggplant spread also being quite good.  The Crispy Moroccan Chicken salad was adequate; a generous sized chicken breast and a large salad plate (though now that I recall it, I think they forgot the lamb bacon that the website advertises (if it was included, it was easily forgettable).

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