Dish 76: Chickpea Fries at Noble American Cookery, 20th and Sansom, http://www.noblecookery.com
Noble American Cookery has an interior design twin across town, in Café Estelle. (I bet you thought I didn’t have a yenta bone in my body. Well, take this. I’ll be the Match.com for these establishments. Noble, meet Estelle. Estelle, meet Noble. Awww, their names even sound cute together.) Both have light slate blue walls, exposed, clean-looking ductwork, dark wood accents, and a lighter feel than that description would allow. Maybe you get breakfast at Estelle if you live in the condos above it (Cheers for loft conversions!) and then later in the day, after your slightly edgy self gets out of your straightlaced moneymaking occupation, decides he needs a class of wine, he stretches his bounds and heads over to Estelle West- I mean, Mr. Estelle- I mean, Noble.
I didn’t get a chance to peek upstairs last night, but photos on the website show the second floor of Noble to be a stunning skylit space, striking white-painted brick walls, the familiar slate blue cushions, and dark-varnished rafters. Noble’s culinary dominance is demonstrated by the exquisitely to-the-point menu. Dani, Tracy and I sampled the chickpea fries and shared the garlicky wilted spinach, the gnocchi, and the veggie burger, with its sour beets and buttery patty. The chickpea fries are the size and shape of frozen mozzarella sticks, an inch square by maybe four inches long; they arrive standing up in a tart tomatoey compote that breaks up the smooth flavor of the chickpea paste, but we were left wanting for another layer of flavor, maybe a salty hard cheese. The gnocchi are also unusual—I had never seen gnocchi that had been toasted, creating two crispy sides on each niblet.
The darkness of the room, each table lit by a tiny candle, creates an intimacy in the open, airy space. The style of the staff is eclectic and tasteful, fresh and hip with a distinctly classic flair; the hostess wore a filmy floral one-piece palazzo pantsuit while the men wore jeans, dress shirts, and vests, and we wondered who the clientele would be. We saw twentysomething rehabilitated former frat boys and a cool-looking pair of middle aged couples on a double date—more diverse and a bit older than the twentysomethings at Estelle, but then again, there is something classically appealing about the younger woman.