I love the name. NOPA Grill. It stands for Not On Park Avenue. Which it isn't.
It's a better name than its original. Diva Grill. It wasn't that either. I don't know why it changed its name in the first place. Perhaps it was trying to find its identity. It may still be trying.
If sincerity was all it took to run a successful restaurant, NOPA would be an absolute winner. All of the people I had contact with were as welcoming and eager and helpful as you'd ever want to find. But of course it takes more than that, and it may take a bit longer for NOPA to find its identity in the kitchen.
There are several intriguing items on the menu, which is another good start. And the good start I had was the appetizer of roasted duck legs, little drummies with a crisped skin over confit-like buttery meat. It was a bit unfortunate that someone in the kitchen felt the need to channel Jackson Pollack with drizzles of balsamic vinegar. (Oddly, the same drizzles were applied to the rolls that were served with the meal. First thing: get rid of that squeeze bottle.)
For my entree I had the NOPA burger, which is listed under the heading “Infused Burgers,” though I don’t know what that means. The patty was formed out of angus beef short rib and was nicely cooked to the requested medium-rare. It may seem strange to niggle that there was too much meat and little else in the patty, but a burger needs a little binder -- not to mention spicing -- to hold it together and give it form. This one just sort of melted. Good ground beef, but not so much a burger. The truffle fries were a tad dry.
My guest had the crab and lobster ravioli, which was a baked dish that featured not very much of the two shellfish and a very creamy sauce under the crusted ravioli.
It's always been a bit difficult for restaurants not directly on Park Avenue. When we think about places to eat in Winter Park, the ones on the thoroughfare are foremost in our minds. So it becomes a challenge for those on the side streets or hidden gardens to get our attention. Others do it, including the raw food restaurant Cafe 118, next door to NOPA. It takes more than eagerness, it needs a kitchen to match.
NOPA Grill is at 155 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park. It is open for dinner only Tuesday through Sunday, but do call before you go. A couple of months ago I was to meet some friends for lunch and booked a table through OpenTable. The reservation was accepted but the restaurant was closed. There is a website, but it is full of place-holder text. You’ll find the menu there, but it doesn’t have prices. The phone number is 407-740-4040.