Surely I’m not the first to refer to El Noa Noa as such. And if the kitchen’s as inept as it was during my one recent meal there, I won’t be the last.

But maybe it isn’t. Maybe the fact that the place has been packed with hordes for years isn’t merely proof of the spell the lovely patio casts, shady & cool with greenery & a burbling stone fountain. Maybe the food usually rocks, & my experience was a total fluke.

Somehow, though, I doubt it. And I’m not throwing good money after bad anytime soon to find out.

Too bad, because the house salsa—fresh enough to compensate for the stale chips, chunky with tomatoes, peppers, & herbs, vibrant & smoky by turns—would have constituted reason enough to return (& the sole recipient of the extra star in this barely-2-star review) had the rest been merely adequate. Had the margarita not been a watery ruin. Had the carne adovada not been toast.

Had the ceviche not contained shrimp with a musty odor. Had the beans not been paste (& that’s coming from someone who likes her refritos creamy with lard).

Had the steak nuggets on the Tacos D.F. (the name being an attempt at street cred) not been so shockingly tough & gristly that 1 bite would have been 1 too many, except that 2 were necessary to confirm that the first was really that bad.

A no-no indeed.

El Noa Noa on Urbanspoon