Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema recently gave NoPA (800 F ST NW) a less than stellar review. The restaurant garnered just 1.5 starts from the critic, who praised chicken dishes, fried pie desserts, and not much else. While we don’t totally disagree, we feel about NoPA about the same as we did the restaurant that previously occupied this space (Zola); it’s less about the main dining area and meal experience, and more about bar and lounge area.
The folks who run NoPA no doubt disagree with this sentiment and want the attention focused on full meals and fine dining. Our view, however, is that when you enter this restaurant you should turn left into the bar/lounge, and try to snag seats in the north east corner overlooking 8th & F. These seats offer such a fun, cool, people-watching perch you may never want to leave. It also gives you the opportunity to sample what has quickly become our favorite light snack: Roasted Almonds with Sweet Chili.
The almonds have a fiery bite, with plenty of sweet crunch to match. These almonds will make you forget all about that Safeway Nut-Bar (oh wait, you’ve already forgotten about it), and washed down with what may be the finest gin & tonic we’ve ever tasted (800 F & Tonic) and you’ve got a great start to an evening out, or a fun end to day.
These almonds are not the only things we liked at NoPA, of course, and at the lounge we’ve really enjoyed some of the other small bites. For instance, the heirloom carrots over yogurt are our new favorite vegetable, and the housemade ricotta is fantastic with the housemade country pate.
We know many people in the DC area are tired of small plates restaurants, but they remain one of our favorite concepts. The ability to taste (and share) a wide range of foods from one kitchen continues to appeal to us. As such, we highly recommend that same method of dining at NoPA, particularly when you can enjoy your meal in the comfort of one of the coolest lounges in the city.