The Brunch Dish: Sublime Sweet and Savory French Toast at Nopa, San Francisco
The french toast at Nopa is justly famous; as much a custard as a breadstuff, loose and weeping cream as you press your fork in. The secret is a base of eggy pan de mie (soaked in lots of cream), just crisped on the edges and crowned with honey butter. This winter's version is strewn with strands of meyer lemon marmalade; syrup is optional and a little obscene.
The half-order we devoured on a recent visit was one of the best versions of the dish I've ever tasted—but it's really more than one person can handle. Instead, go family style, choose something savory first, and then finish up with a round of coffee and a half-order of the rich stuff. ($7, $15 full order)
Where to start? The housemade garlic sausage ($15) is grilled over wood until the crisp casing has a bit of caramelization that makes for a satisfying snap, giving way to a sweet and garlicky interior. The sausage is served on a bed of farro, a little smoky and a little stewy, with sweet sauteed cabbage, two runny poached eggs, and a scattering of pickled onions to contribute a little zip.
If you've given up on having a well rounded meal, though, the correct order is the goat cheese bread pudding ($9) which isn't far off from a savory French toast, in slightly more cubical format. This tender pillow is rich inside, crisp outside, and delicately goaty, perched on top of a layer of tangy creamed goat cheese to reinforce the savory side. There's a watercress, fennel, and sweet date salad to round out the plate, but you'll have to just admit to yourself that you're eating multiple courses of some of San Francisco's best French toast, and there's nothing wrong with that.