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The Beauty of Nopa


Neyah with a special, unlisted cocktail

You know they're doing something right at Nopa when you’re willing to wait 25 minutes for a bar stool, and fight off vicious competitors while doing it. It's clear why people are so eager to get seats here: The bar is genius.

First, we'll start with the cocktails. Many of them are the original creations of Neyah White, who is as thoughtful and creative a bartender as there is. We started with the powerful Oro del Minero (a mezcal and Pineau des Charentes concoction) as well as the Mumbai iced tea, a take on the original, much-derided Long Island version, but this one was delicious and refreshing. We also tried the drink pictured here (the two principal ingredients are Manzanilla Sherry and St. Germain Elderflower liqueur). This cocktail, which was not yet on the menu, was phenomenal.

Besides the balance, and originality of the cocktails, it's also nice to see Neyah and the Nopa bartenders lovingly practicing the art of garnishing—at Nopa all the drinks look as beautiful as they taste. This is no small feat at such a busy, fast-paced bar.

I can't talk about drinking at Nopa without mentioning Chris Deegan’s superb wine list. While it veers deeply into the esoteric, don't be afraid—that's what makes it fun. Yesterday we had a rare taste of Mondeuse (a very obscure red grape variety) made by Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, vintage 2000 (it was beautiful), as well as a Nerello Mascalese from Sicily (Tenuta delle Terre Nerre) and a gorgeous Muscat from Navarro in the Anderson Valley. It's a crazy mixture of wines and styles, but Chris makes it all work. (By the way, Chris, thanks for keeping sherry prominent on your wine list. If I hadn't been starting with cocktails, I would have had a glass of La Gitana Manzanilla—one of my all-time favorite sherries.)

The last thing I want to mention is the food at Nopa. With all that drinking, we had to put something in our stomachs and here that's no problem. However, the food on this occasion was the best they’ve served yet. Especially memorable were the broccoli with eggs, the duck breast and the incredible 9-hour bolognese with polenta, which was about the most comforting comfort food I've ever consumed.

Altogether, Nopa is a great package. If you want to sit at the bar, however, make sure to sharpen your elbows and be ready to wait it out.