Small Is Beautiful at The Noble
Tiny Walker’s Point restaurant offers imaginative entrees in a very laid-back atmosphere.
A friend from Peoria IL and I recently spent a leisurely Saturday evening at The Noble, the unique little restaurant in Walker’s Point. Okay, I know they don’t take reservations and the dining room is tiny and it was Saturday, but we weren’t in a hurry. As we open the door, a friendly greeting rings out from the bartender. We’re glad to be there. And good fortune strikes as a table for two opens up. Apparently all the people who are waiting need a four top.
We sit in the back by the croquet set across from an antique typewriter and above us, old photos decorate the wall. There’s an odd collection of bric-a-brac here, something like a long-forgotten grandma’s attic minus the dust, or as my friend says, “It’s random stuff, but tastefully random.”
We feel right at home with the background tunes, Harry Belafonte, the Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, classic oldies from the 60s and 70s.
We bypass appetizers and salads and proceed straight to the main event. That means we miss Creamy Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup, Wild Mushroom Pate, Sausage Stuffed Calamari, Baked Brie, and more. Overlooked salads number three: one pairs fried cranberries and toasted hazelnuts with Brussels sprouts and spinach, a second combines beets, beans, fried potatoes, and red onion in beet and caviar dressing, and the third, a mix of pumpkin, dates, and arugula, are dressed with tamarind vinaigrette.
Things get complicated when it’s time to order an entrée unless you are a person with an airtight memory and listen very carefully as the server lists the choices. Or, you can “like” The Noble on Facebook and check out the menu before you arrive. According to our server, they post it daily. I can’t guarantee this, but what I do know is that the menu divides into Hunters, meat entrees, Gatherers, the daily vegetarian dish, Catch of the Day, the Daily Chop, pork of the day, and Featured Casual Fare. We never did figure out what that was.
As we sip our wine, we wonder how we’ll choose from what we can remember: Mojito Braised Short Ribs, Twelve Ounce Pork Porterhouse with Sage Brown Butter, Baked Penne with Fire-roasted Tomatoes, Bone-in Pork Chop with Mole, and the veggie, Mole over Fried Polenta.
As we dither, our server stops by to show us plates for another table, Cornmeal Crusted Catfish with Mashed Potatoes and the New York Strip with Crawfish Cream Sauce. “It’s easier to show you than to explain,” she says, “because the food is so visual and the menu so verbal.”
We choose Mojito Braised Short Ribs and Chipotle Espresso Mole over a fried polenta cake.
The fall-off-the-bone ribs, braised with rum and mint, are served on a bed of couscous and quinoa. This is a plate designed by an artist who revels in color. A puddle of orange carrot puree accentuates bright green snap peas and pearly white onions. “It’s a riot of color,” my friend says. “The visuals are beautiful, it’s delicious, and instead of six dots of carrot puree, it’s a real sauce. I can taste carrot.”
In the other dish, the combination of mole and polenta is a surprise as if Pueblo in Mexico (the birthplace of dark mole) meets Peidmont in Italy, where polenta is a staple. The dish hits all the right notes, crunchy grilled polenta, densely flavored chipotle espresso mole, creamy avocado, sweet corn nestled in rice, and bits of mild Mexican queso. A few jalapeno slices sit on top for people who tolerate excess heat.
Gestalt enters the conversation as we devour our entrees. These are complex dishes. We savor each individual flavor as we rave about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
In the dessert arena, The Noble’s Bread Pudding is legend. So we experience a moment of disappointment when our server says, “I’m so sorry. We don’t have the bread pudding tonight.” We release our expectations and order the cheesecake. Oh my! It’s served with port wine reduction, not six drops but a pool of delicious, plus thin-sliced poached pear, and whipped cream. All it lacks is a spoon to salvage the last drop of port wine.
On the down side, if you are in a hurry, or if you’re looking for a romantic tete-a-tete, The Noble might not be the best choice. The bistro-style tables are close together and the food doesn’t pop quickly from the kitchen. It’s “slow food”. We might have waited close to an hour for our entrée but no problem, dinner was worth the wait.
On my second visit, a Friday, a friend and I wait for a table, but our dinner arrives inside of thirty minutes. We find the swordfish-like cobia with mango chutney and coconut rice flawless, and likewise the Horseradish Bacon Crusted Salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts.
What I didn’t do was go to brunch on Monday. The Noble serves brunch from 11:00 to 3:00 to accommodate people in the service industry who never get the chance to go out for weekend brunch. The bartender describes a recent brunch, a pre-St Patrick’s Day celebration with this menu: Double Chocolate Stout Pancakes with pecan whiskey sauce syrup and Bailey’s whipped cream, Scotch-Irish Egg on veggie hash with parmesan cream sauce, Arugula, Scallion and Swiss Omelet, Apricot Glazed Corned Beef Brisket with colcannon potatoes and bacon sautéed cabbage, and of course Corned Beef Hash.
Now that spring is official, the patio will open soon. It’s tiny, six tables, a tree, a bar, and a ladder hanging on the wall. It may be small but it more than doubles The Noble’s indoor seating capacity, a mere twenty-two.
Since I struck out twice with “Do you have the Bread Pudding tonight,” I ask the server if they only offer it on certain days, or seldom, or, when?”
“Message us on Facebook,” she says, “and maybe the chef will put it on the menu.”
That’s good enough for me.
On The Menu
704 S. 2nd St.
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 5-10; Friday-Saturday 5-11; Closed Sunday; and Monday brunch 11-3.