First Look

Oak Cliff Gastropub Nova Opens, Softly

Last night, as Rob Shearer at Go Oak Cliff reported, North Oak Cliff added yet another restaurant to its roster as Nova, at the former location of Kavala (1417 W. Davis St.), had its soft opening.

Our hopes were high for the self-proclaimed gastropub, as the owners include Robert Ramirez, JD Reid, Darren Scott and Matthew Yates, whose restaurant industry resumes include Dallas hot spots like the Green Room, Bolla, Twilight, Quinn and others. Add to that chef Kelly Hightower, a Dallas native who has cooked at Hatties, Kavala and The Mansion on Turtle Creek, and it sounds like a sure-fire recipe for success.

If the food we tried on our first visit is any indication, it surely will be...assuming a few deficiencies are addressed.

During one of a few brief "How is everything?" visits from co-owner JD Reid, he assured us that the bar and restaurant was far from complete in terms of menu, beer list and design. Good thing, especially on the beer front, as the pitiful selection made the "gastropub" claim somewhat dubious. Reid said the plan was for the bar to eventually offer around 40 bottled beers and eight on draft, but last night only seven bottles were available -- with only Negra Modelo, Newcastle and Fireman's #4 rising above the likes of Corona and Miller Lite. No wonder everyone else seemed to be drinking wine; offerings there included Nimbus Sauvignon Blanc, Hahn Pinot Noir, Clayhouse Adobe Red and 75 Wine Co.'s The Sum, with prices ranging from $7 to $15 a glass and bottles from $26 to $50.

The stylish furniture and fixtures added a '60s mod kitsch touch, yet with its cracked and stained treated concrete floor, open L-shaped design and bright lighting, the place still felt more like a Waffle House than a pub, gastro or otherwise. But the barren bar and unmarked bathroom doors were evidence enough that the interior design is far from complete. Anyway, good food can overcome even the direst design shortcomings. And here, at least judging from our two "small plates," the place delivers.

Hightower's hummus, a holdover from Kavala, was excellent, simple, creamy and flavorful with just the right amount of garlic and served with a simple cucumber and tomato salad. Even better was the blowtorch salmon, skewered and sweetly glazed with what tasted like honey and soy sauce and served with a salad of spinach leaves and julienned carrot and water chestnut. Also available are personal-size pizzas and intriguing entrees that included an $18 Thai-inspired New York strip served with peanuts. The menu will change every couple weeks and also include chef's specials, we were told.

But almost as good as the food is the news that the kitchen will stay open till midnight and the bar won't close until 2 a.m.-- a welcome break from the early bedtimes of most Bishop Arts and Kessler-area watering holes.