Tuesday, June 28
There's a new little taste of Japan in SF called Nojo. Nojo means 'farm' in Japanese, so you'll find farm to table fare served yakitori and izakaya style -- and a list of the nojos supplying the goods on the daily menu. For chef/owner Greg Dunmore [former Exec Chef of Ame], the deciding inspiration for Nojo was a visit to a yakitori bar in Osaka. Lucky us, we now have a sweet spot in Hayes Valley to sip sake and beer while enjoying some great bites and really nice hospitality.
The choices are plentiful and it was not easy to decide, but we started at the top with the simple, bright flavors of Spring tsukemono -- pickled daikon, cucumber and curried cauliflower.
There are lots of options 'on a stick' and the tsukune (basically a chicken meatball cooked yakitori style) with egg yolk sauce was savory delicious.
This juicy chicken breast on a stick was topped with fresh wasabi leaves and rested on a dollop of freshly mashed avocado.
Okay: almond pork rice ball with miso mustard. Need I say more?
Loved the crisp and light tempura of Maitake mushrooms, Meyer lemon slices & Blue Lake beans with spicy ponzu mayo. Meyer lemon slices? Oh yeah!
I'll try pretty much anything made with umeboshi (pickled sour plums). This handmade umeboshi somen, topped with uni and fresh shiso leaves, was incredibly delicate.
The tender tonkatsu (fried pork) comes with a fresh salad full of shaved daikon, sweet cherries and roasted almonds.
It was a tough call choosing 'dezaato' (the charmingly Japanified word for dessert). All in the offing are creative and intriguing, and the vote this particular eve went to the buckwheat crêpes with ginger muscavado syrup, plumcots and white miso ice cream. It was an excellent choice and stellar finish to a really enjoyable meal.
Anyone in for a repeat?
Posted by katiechrist at 7:19 AM
Wednesday, June 1
I ventured to Madison, Wisconsin recently for a friend's wedding and I honestly had no idea what to expect on the food scene. I did know there was a James Beard Best Chef nominee this year, but other than that, clueless. I quickly learned that not only is Madison home to the country's largest producer-only farmer's market (who knew?!), there are two fantastic restaurants within one block of each other: Graze and Harvest.
Just across the street from the State Capitol building, Graze is the stylish and more casual gastro-pub cousin to the eponymous L'Etoile. Both establishments' kitchens are under the guidance of Tory Miller, the 2011 James Beard nominee I was referring to.
Graze is all about haute comfort food. And no visit to Madison, so I was told, would be complete without indulging in the local delicacy of fried cheese curds. Yes folks, fried cheese. With housemade ranch dressing for dipping. That's some serious decadence!
Wisconsinites are devoted to their cheeses and producers. At Graze, the daily local cheese offerings are announced on a large blackboard.
As are their 'Conservation Farmers of the Year' purveyors.
Not only is there American comfort food on the menu, but there are pan-Asian inspired offerings woven throughout, like the House pickle platter featuring escabeche, Persian cukes and beets...
... squash, kim chee and daikon.
The silky smooth asparagus and spring onion soup with tarragon, topped with lemon crème fraîche was essentially Spring farmer's market in a bowl.
And back to Vietnam with a hyper-fresh version of Bún with grilled halibut and shrimp, rice noodles, spring veggies, peanuts, chopped cilantro, mint and a chili-lime vinaigrette.
The grilled cheese special of the day featured beets, local feta and bacon on pumpernickel. The flavors were all so satisfying (and the food filling), that dessert was just not do-able. Maybe even a first for me!
Just one block down is Harvest and I'm sorry to say I don't have any photos of the food to share. I know, but it was the wedding rehearsal dinner I was off duty (a girl's gotta draw the line somewhere.) I do, however, have a very vivid memory of the wonderful meal, and can't gush enough about the grass-fed beef co-op grilled flat iron steak seasoned with harissa, topped with pickled red onions & mint and chickpea fries. Seriously, the steak was extraordinary. Don't just take my word for it, go enjoy it yourself!
Posted by katiechrist at 2:27 PM