Jump to content
Al Dente

Nora, America's First Certified Organic Restaurant - Owner Nora Pouillon on 21st Street and Florida Avenue in North Dupont - Closed Jun 30, 2017

Recommended Posts

I have a kind offer from my future mother-in-law for dinner anywhere in DC for my birthday. She keeps pushing for Nora, but I haven't heard much buzz about it recently. I was hoping to finally get to Kaz or Sushi-Ko, but perhaps I'd be missing out by not trying one of her favorites. I may also be missing out on the political points I'd score by letting her have her way.

Has anyone been recently? How was it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You can certainly see the tumbleweeds rolling by in here! I'm thinking no one's been in a while. Best I can offer is a visit a little more than a year ago. I remember very little of it (and no, the wine was not the culprit!)

It just wasn't memorable. Not bad by any means, but not particularly interesting or inventive. I honestly couldn't tell you one dish I had. I remember it being tasty but uninspired. Walked out with no desire to go back and shell out the $$$ for something so plain.

My feeling on the place has always been that there is too much focus on where the ingredients come from and not nearly enough on how things taste. Just my two cents.

Having said that, I've always enjoyed myself at Asia Nora.

I have a kind offer from my future mother-in-law for dinner anywhere in DC for my birthday. She keeps pushing for Nora, but I haven't heard much buzz about it recently. I was hoping to finally get to Kaz or Sushi-Ko, but perhaps I'd be missing out by not trying one of her favorites. I may also be missing out on the political points I'd score by letting her have her way.

Has anyone been recently? How was it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two parts:

1) I went to Nora's a few months ago, and while the Andy (the manager) and Jack (the bar manager) were wonderful and took really good care of us, I just wasn't really very pleased with the food. The flavors and textures just didn't really come together. I really wanted to like it - and previous times I had - but its just not consistent. And I feel bad saying that because our entire meal was on the house. The wine list & the desserts were great but to be honest, I didn't eat most of the dishes I'd ordered.

2) That said, I think Asia Nora is fantastic (full disclosure: my SO is a bartender/manager, but I've eaten there many times before and since the start of his employment.) While working at Palena, I sent many of my regulars there and they've always come back with good reviews. Haidar Karoum is the chef and has control over the menu, and most nights he works on the line as well. The staff is friendly and unpretentious, yet knowledgeable and professional. And the food is delicious. You can check out a menu and wine list online, its the same website for Nora's. When you read the menus, the descriptions look like the food would be of the same caliber. I don't know why, but they turn out verrry different. Every dish that comes out of the kitchen at Asia Nora just works.

And the atmosphere is much more intimate and comfortable at Asia Nora. Ask for one of the banquettes if you make a reservation, they are the best seats in the restaurant. Just don't plan on spending a lot of time at the bar, since at just 4 seats, its very small (but it does have my favorite decorative touch in the space - these hanging Balinese thingys.)

Wow, that sounds like an ad for Asia Nora. I guess the two are just very different. Asia Nora is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Nora's is - I find - just mediocre.

And that my two cents, for what its worth. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

on a somewhat related note Nora contributed a strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe for a Wall St Journals article on upscale picnic foods today....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm dining at Nora tonight for the first time. It is kind of a relief that the restaurant does not participate in RW.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Item from today's menu that I found rather interesting.

Rosemary Scented Antelope Roast with Wild Chanterelles, Baby Carrots, English Pea Salpicon, Red Pepper Oil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In brief, it was good, but not great. I liked the food, but the service was an abomination. And yet, my always generous friend who has been dining at Nora relatively regularly for a decade, tipped 35%.

I'm having a hard time figuring out why the service was so bad, if we did something that made an initial impression of "this table will be a lousy tip" or what. We ordered quite a lot of wine (3-4 bottles for five people...I can't recall which it was. :P ), a good deal of food, dessert. We were polite and friendly. It's a jovial bunch.

But our service actually seemed scornful and for that reason alone, I can't imagine choosing to go back.

More later about the food...work calls.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Portugese sardines on Saturday were incredible. Crisp and pleasently salty. Everything else (Tuna Cruda, Yellowtail Tartare, Beef Carpaccio, Lamb, Duck and Pork) was very good - but not very exciting. Everything was solidly executed - but a bit boring (with, again, the exception of my sardines - but I REALLY dig salty).

The service was slow (long waits before the server acknowledged us, long wait between apps and main course) but friendly if not a bit too casual.

On my last visit, I felt pretty much the same way. Enjoyable - but meh. If I had not had my MIL, SIL and her husband in tow (all who eat a primarily organic diet), we would have most likely chosen another restaurant.

Overall - an enjoyable evening - not disappointing - but not memorable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just watched a special on Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, and it led my wife to wonder if Restaurant Nora, which has somewhat the same philosophy (just somewhat) with respect to a focus on very good ingredients, is worth revisiting. Have not been there for 5+ years. Anyone with more recent experience?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just watched a special on Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, and it led my wife to wonder if Restaurant Nora ... is worth revisiting.

 
No.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The worst dining experience I've ever had was at Nora. It was a few years ago and I've blocked out most of the details, but I remember a 9pm reservation where the meal was *finally* served at 11pm due to a "problem in the kitchen" with no apology or free drink or anything, and the most expensive mediocre roast chicken I've ever eaten. I've never gone back and never will.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My experience there was...what's the right word here? Fine. It was improved several notches by the fact that I was not paying, and that my generous host was buying bottle after bottle of fine wine for our gang. From what I can recall, everything was...fine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Color me confused - why does the title say that the "chef has just left?" Has Nora jumped ship? Is this why the place is no longer worth visiting?

I am a newbie to the site but wanted to add that I dined at Nora about a year ago, and was very pleased with the experience - Yes, it is a tad over reasonably priced, but I thought the execution of the dishes, i.e. roast chicken, squash soup, steak, even the salad, was delicious. I wouldn't go back on my own dime, but wouldn't turn it down on somebody else's.

-Rachel

p.s. just wanted to add, if DonRocks reads this, thank you for this great forum!! I'm new to DC, from Boston, and this is a most welcome venue to get all my foodie info. :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Color me confused - why does the title say that the "chef has just left?"  Has Nora jumped ship? Is this why the place is no longer worth visiting? 

I am a newbie to the site but wanted to add that I dined at Nora about a year ago, and was very pleased with the experience - Yes, it is a tad over reasonably priced, but I thought the execution of the dishes, i.e. roast chicken, squash soup, steak, even the salad, was delicious.  I wouldn't go back on my own dime, but wouldn't turn it down on somebody else's.

-Rachel

p.s. just wanted to add, if DonRocks reads this, thank you for this great forum!!  I'm new to DC, from Boston, and this is a most welcome venue to get all my foodie info.  biggrin.gif

 
Hi Rachel, and welcome!

Mark Hellyar, who has been Chef de Cuisine at Nora for the past couple of years, left a few weeks ago for England. Nora Pouillion, owner and proprietor, is still running the show - she was there when I visited a couple of weeks ago.

Cheers,
Rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hi Rachel, and welcome!

Mark Hellyar, who has been Chef de Cuisine at Nora for the past couple of years, left a few weeks ago for England.� Nora Pouillion, owner and proprietor, is still running the show - she was there when I visited a couple of weeks ago.

Cheers,
Rocks.

 
Got it, thanks biggrin.gif

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My experience there was...what's the right word here?  Fine.  It was improved several notches by the fact that I was not paying, and that my generous host was buying bottle after bottle of fine wine for our gang.  From what I can recall, everything was...fine.

 
I agree with you, Jennifer. Had a similar experience with a generious, wine-buying host. Really wanted to enjoy the meal, but it was...eh. Okay. And the service was over-the-top snooty, which knocked the okay dining experience down a few pegs. I don't plan on ever going back.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Our service, now that I think about it, was a little look-down-my-nose-at-you. We were sitting at the round table in the bar area so the group of five probably wasn't as subdued as we might have been in the dining room, however we weren't rowdy either.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An Open Letter to Washington City Paper:

Dear Editor,

While I take no issue with peoples' varying impressions of the food or service at Restaurant Nora, it is galling to see a quarter-century of capital-I Integrity dissed as " (an) incredibly pretentious organic credo" by some feckless doofus. This person cannot possibly be in a position to identify precisely where the "pretense" might lie. But we can; we have known Nora Pouillon, Steven Damato and Thomas Damato for more than twenty years, and there is not one scintilla of pretense in their "Organic credo". They embody their principles, they WALK THE WALK as the saying goes.

Disagree with this or any credo if you wish, but spare us the anonymously delivered invective toward people whose commitment you'd be better advised to emulate than to take cheap shots at.

Sincerely,

Terry Theise

Odessa Piper

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Because I am neurotic and just plain weird, I just killed a quarter of my lunch hour trying to figure out what the hell prompted Terry Theise's post. It appears to have been prompted by an anonymous comment on the City Paper site from December 2003. See here.

Phew.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't find the comment... it says there are 10, but I only count 9. Am I missing something?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I can't find the comment... it says there are 10, but I only count 9.  Am I missing something?

 
I think it's the ninth comment. To wit:

 

If you can get beyond, or laugh at, the incredible pretentiousness of Nora's organic credo (the menu tells us that the waitstaff's shirts are made of organically-grown cotton), the food is just wonderful. My toasted quinoa side dish was heaven.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The comment is excerpted in this week's City Paper in a capsule review of Nora which is done in a Zagat-like fashion based on the website comments. The paper also introduces the comment:

"... another cynically remarks, "If you can get beyond, or laugh at, the incredible pretentiousness of Nora's organic credo, the food is just wonderful.""

I'll also note that one of the definitions of pretentious isn't strictly related to pretense, but is a synonym of ostentatious. While not the nicest term, I don't think it's unfair to say that Restaurant Nora's embrace of organic cuisine is ostentatious, given the focus of the restaurant's own website.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We had a good experience tonight at Restaurant Nora for Restaurant Week. The service was attentive and friendly, the portion sizes looked normal-sized (as in, not reduced for RW), and given Restaurant Nora’s usual prices of upper $20/lower $30 for entrees, the RW price for three courses was significantly less than the typical price. With wine and coffee, though, our total with tax, pre-tip, was about $100.

For the RW menu, Nora's offered a choice of two appetizers (mixed green salad with Asian pear, pecans, and camembert with balsamic vinaigrette or vichychoise with shrimp), a choice of four entrees (Amish chicken curry with basmati rice; mushroom, corn and vegetable risotto; salmon; and beef), and a choice of two desserts (dark chocolate mousse and plum blackberry crisp with vanilla ice cream). The RW appetizers and entrees were different from the items listed on the “regular” menu, but based on my prior visits and browsing of Nora’s online menu, I would say at least some of the appetizers/entrees were representative of dishes that Nora’s has offered in the past, if not very similar. For instance, I know they often offer a risotto dish.

I had the mixed green salad, chicken curry, and plum blackberry crisp. I wasn’t sure that I would like the chicken curry because we go to Indian restaurants quite a bit, and I was skeptical that the chicken curry at Restaurant Nora could be as good. I ordered it anyway, though, because I just had beef the last two nights, I wasn’t in the mood for salmon, and the +1 was ordering the risotto. Surprisingly, I really liked the chicken curry, which was bite-sized pieces of dark and white meat chicken and cashews in a flavorful, very slightly spicy curry sauce. I had the plum blackberry crisp for dessert, which came in a round shallow dish with oatmeal “crisp” pieces scattered on top and a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle. The dessert was good, but I like the crisp part better than fruit so would have enjoyed a higher crisp to fruit ratio. I was too full to eat much of the dessert anyway (I’ll confess I actually had a salty oat cookie at Teaism right before dinner :) .

I think this is the fifth time I’ve been to Restaurant Nora in the last ten years. It’s always been fine, but the flavors never made a strong impression on me. The +1 likes the organic emphasis of the restaurant, though, so we’ve gone back on occasions when there wasn’t another restaurant on my list of places to try. Although I think the chicken curry has been my favorite of the dishes I've had there, I would order something else next time. Chicken curry is something I can get at an Indian restaurant (though albeit, likely not all organic) so I’d want to order a dish that’s a bit more different.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×