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Nua Restaurant & Wine Bar - CLOSED

A Cool Mediterranean Hot Spot

From the moment you walk in, you’ll notice that Nua is not the traditional family style Italian-American restaurant typical of North Beach. It’s a sophisticated, sleek yet comfortable, cozy restaurant and wine bar. The Nua website describes the restaurant as seasonal Mediterranean and that couldn’t be more true. Portions are less American and more petite and European-sized.

The clean interior is filled with rich exotic woods like walnut, pau ferro and zebrawood, with a warm palette of oranges and browns. The space is watched over by a large photograph of the late chef Randall Brown tucked in the corner, who some may remember as the original chef at Chez Papa.

We shared a number of appetizers, which indicated the strengths and weaknesses of the kitchen. A special, goat cheese salad, was perfectly dressed and the small rounds of chèvre were breaded in panko, lightly crisp on the outside and warm on the inside. However, the crispy sardines escabeche were a bit of a miss. The sardines, while fresh and tasty, weren’t really crispy, and were overshadowed by the overly sweet and dry “escabeche,” a too-sweet/sour pickled mix of blue lake beans, cauliflower, carrots and currants.

Our favorite starter was the chicken liver mousse and country pate ($11). The pate had a rough texture and was complemented with a kumquat-quince mostarda. But the real star was the decadent chicken liver mousse, which was rich and extremely creamy, but light as air.

The only vegetarian dish on the entrée side of the menu was the Parisienne herb gnocchi ($14). The gnocchi were perfectly tender and drenched in a slightly oversalted, buttery sauce with tiny mushrooms and slivers of artichokes. It was a dish everyone at our table savored. The other main dishes were outstanding. The rack of lamb with green garlic & potato gratin served with roasted asparagus and sauce salmoriglio was the most expensive dish on the menu at $25 and featured three medium-sized lamb chops cooked juicy and rare.

Sometimes simpler is better at Nua, and the porterhouse pork chop with morels and ramps was a perfect example of this. Succulent and flavorful, the savory chop was nicely balanced with baby turnips, artichokes, spongy morels and a light jus.

We ordered two side dishes, some French fries and roasted cauliflower. The addictively crispy French fries with smoked paprika salt and harissa aioli were too strong to go with any of the entrees, though they would have been wonderful with a glass of wine on their own. The roasted cauliflower ($5) was just the right balance to work with any of the entrees; a sprinkling of capers, pine nuts and parsley punched up the dish.

The wine list offers many options for food-friendly wines including Roses, Reislings and Rhone reds in the $30-40 range and had both old and new world options. We went with a Robert Sinskey Vin Gris de Pinot Noir ($37) which with a refreshing light acidity was a great match for everything we ordered.

Service was friendly and attentive. Our server checked in with us at every course and when we were less than thrilled with a too-icy granita dessert, he took it off the bill. A cornmeal almond cake was a better choice and came surrounded by seasonal fruits such as pink lady apples and rhubarb. Come early for a glass of wine at the tiny bar or with a small group of close friends, before the place fills up and gets too noisy, and you are sure to enjoy a satisfying taste of Italy, France, and Spain.

North Beach

Reservations Essential? Yes