Nua: Not So Much

While we’re on the topic of neighborhoods, I’ve got a love/hate relationship with Northbeach.

In the love column: The ready availability of cannolis, the presence of some damn-fine coffee, City Lights, the cathedral at night, and the occasional feeling that you’re visiting another, more glamorous country than your own.

In the hate column: The neighborhood’s continuous celebration of Hoochie Fest 2007. (Which followed fast on the heels of Hoochie Fests 2006, 2005, 2004, etc, etc.)

The girls (and their “goin’ out in my striped shirt tonight” male counterparts) were certainly out in force on Sunday night when we visited Nua. The streets were clogged with ‘em. Squealing, hammered, holding each other up as they stumbled down the street. Is there some sort of elevation change on Columbus that causes accelerated absorption of alcohol?

But I digress. On to Nua.

Since I’ve already wasted your time with my bitching, I’ll cut to the chase. Nua didn’t rock me. At best, it gave me a playful nudge.

There weren’t any veggie entrees on the menu—not even a guest appearance by my nemesis, the veg-friendly risotto—so I asked the server if the chef would be willing to make a plate for me. (I noticed a number of promising sides and accompaniments to the meat dishes, so it wouldn’t have been difficult.) The waiter let me know the chef could do the Gnocci without the duck and the Seafood Risotto without the seafood. No way, man. I’ve been down that road too many times before. When you remove a main ingredient from a dish, 9 times out of 10, it’s going to suffer. Instead, I opted to start with a salad, then ordered individual sides of Roasted Cauliflower and Gigande Beans.

The salad—Red Crimson and Bartlett Pear with Mache, Belgian Endive, Candied Walnuts and Manchego—wasn’t half bad.  I wish it had been dressed more thoroughly, though. At first, I thought it lacked acid, but the pool of dressing at the bottom of the plate proved me wrong. My partner’s salad mysteriously arrived without Manchego. She was understandably sad.

My friend Susan went with the Gnocci, and I was glad I’d avoided it. She said it was salty in the extreme. My Roasted Cauliflower with Capers, Pine Nuts, and Parsley, had a nice flavor, but could have done with a bit more time in the oven. (For a lesson in how Cauliflower should be roasted, check out Pizzeria Delfina. They know the way: Keep it in the overn ‘til the cauliflower screams “uncle”.)

My Tomato-Braised Gigande Beans with Spinach were actually pretty tasty, but in desperate need of a buddy on the plate. I’d seen them being served at another table, snuggled underneath a pile of meat. I imagine they were quite happy there, harmonizing with some deeper flavors. On their own, they were okay, but…

Ugh. It sucks if you subtract a main ingredient, and it sucks if you just order sides. So what’s a vegetarian food lover to do? Chefs, I beg you. Think about this shit. You’re in California, for Christ’s sake. Give us something we’ll love, not just something we’ll tolerate for lack of anything better. It doesn’t take much. Just a little bit of effort. And another thing—if a vegetarian is ordering a bunch of sides to make a meal for herself, you might consider trying to plate it like an entrée, so she’s not made to feel like a picky little toddler at the table with the grownups. Just a thought.

Phew. Rant over. Moving on.

We finished the meal with Churros and Chocolate. They were tasty, but what fried thing isn’t? I was hoping for some of that super-creamy wonderstuff you get in the center of a good, fresh churro. Sigh. Didn’t get it.

Maybe if I were a meat eater, I’d give Nua another shot. But with nothing on the menu for me to eat, save a hobbled-together meal of sides, I don’t think I’ll bother any time soon.

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4 Comments

Filed under Mid-range Meals, Rants, Reviews

4 responses to “Nua: Not So Much

  1. Amen to the “You’re in California” part of the rant.

    I saw the movie about Monterey Market (“Eat at Bill’s”), in which many top chefs rave about the great vegetables and fruits in California. But then for the vegetarian entree, they serve risotto with a bit of unexciting vegetables. Or pasta in a thick, nearly vegetable-free sauce. And so on. How about showcasing the vegetables?

  2. I’m really surprised by the lack of your options. I eat meat so I never really noticed the dearth of vegetarian fare and, naively, just assumed there were always available dishes (considering the city we live in.)

    It seems like these restaurants are really missing out on an important market segment.

    I’ve heard that Ubuntu in Napa is now open. He’s the former sous from Manresa and it’s supposed to be a vegetable-friendly (though not necessarily vegetarian-friendly) restaurant. It may be worth exploring if you find yourself up north. I will probably get there soon…

  3. It really is astonishing, isn’t it? When I used to eat fish, it didn’t bother me as much. But now it, it drives me absolutely ape sh*t. (As you can probably tell.)

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