Nombe

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

The occasion of Lisa’s birthday was the reason for heading to my now-favorite San Francisco restaurant, Nombe.

Hakuro Suishu – Junmai Ginjo (winter water). A very, very smooth sake.

First course – Suimono; a salad sashimi-based salad with amazingly fresh and vibrant vegetables. Fresh, raw trout sat atop purslane, tofu, arugula, sea beans, chanterelles, squash blossoms, fresh pickled ginger, spinach, sunomono, radish, and a very light seafood broth. It would have been a perfect dinner for two and a more-than-ample meal for one. The chanterelle mushrooms were tender and provided a rich texture against the clean, brightness of the vegetables. The trout — which I thought was salmon based on the color — was rich with an ample amount of marbling to give enough fat to the entire dish to balance out all the healthy goodness in the vegetables.

Kubota Maju – Dai Ginjo. Luxuriously super clean and flowery sake. This was offered as an intercourse as Gil had a few sips left from a tasting a few days prior. He admitted this was the Cadillac of sakes and usually too expensive for most. A lovely gesture that it was comped for Lisa’s birthday.

Tengumai Jikomi – Yamahai Junmai. A richer, more lingering sake to accompany the rest of the meal.

Hano Okazu – So many dishes at once. Served in small, 3″ plates, following our glorious salad came a veritable Japanese smörgåsbord:

  • Wagyu Beef ~ Ever so lightly grilled as to preserve the integrity of the marbling. Served with sliced scallions and shredded daikon, this tender offering proved rich and satisfying.
  • Squash ~ Fresh yellow squash and zucchini were very thinly sliced, marinated in a light rice wine vinegar and served with fresh greens.
  • Bitter Melon ~ Contrasting flavors to all the other vegetables, here chunked bitter melon is served alongside caramelized onions which gave a level of tender sweetness to the crunchy melon.
  • Chicken Livers ~ Chicken livers are coated with a sesame-studded spicy breading that was just slightly hot enough to entice without being overpowering. Served with fresh cilantro, I pushed those greens aside but Lisa enjoyed that element. I was just happy with the crunch of the exterior which yielded to the tender interior.
  • Chicken Gizzard ~ Yet another slightly spicy offering, the gizzards are marinated with bits of red pepper and white and black sesame seeds. Perfectly chewy (the way a gizzard should) with a tangy bite to counter-balance the spice and crunch of the livers.
  • Pickles ~ Chef Nick makes his own pickles and these are not to be missed. Not just a palate cleanser, these become an integral part of the meal.
  • Minnow ~ Little miniature fish, deep fried and tossed with diced peppers and a chili paste, I was anticipating a mouth-burner, but they were not too hot at all. Lisa particularly enjoyed these little morsels.
  • Kimchee ~ Probably one of the hottest offerings, I had to relegate most of this dish to Lisa who has a higher tolerance than I do. I tried a portion and preferred the remnants of the flavors which existed on the sliced zucchini pickles.
  • Pig’s Ears ~ Hidden under wafer thin radish slices were ribbons of sliced pig ear. Hands-down the favored dish of the evening, neither Lisa nor I had ever tasted such a uniquely tender preparation. Usually it is the consistency of hard, chewy rubber bands, we were both astonished at how flavorful the thinly sliced ears were but also how delightfully tender.
  • Seaweed Salad ~ I purchase a very similar concoction to this at Nijiya market, but what comes pre-made in plastic containers in a grocery store is not nearly as savory and flavorful as this. Uniform slices of seaweed, carrot, and daikon is all lightly dressed and garnished with white and black sesame seeds.
  • Eggplant ~  Hidden under bonito flakes and scallion were freshly roasted, seasoned eggplant. This was a favored dish of mine as the saltiness from the bonito countered the sweetness in the eggplant.
  • Rice with Fresh Nori ~ My consistent favorite that I usually always save for breakfast.

All of these tiny plates surrounded a giant platter of pork shoulder from Llano Seco Farms. Here the pork is presented as both succulent slabs with heavy rivers of fat to be negotiated in its consumption, but also golden fried chicharrons (fried pork rinds). Served with a rich dark sauce and creamy mayonnaise, we topped the meat with a bit of lime juice. Seared to give just enough to give a dark, rich crust, the interior was tender and moist and while a little difficult to eat with chopsticks, ripping the luscious meat with our teeth was primal and satisfying.

Dessert courses finished out this more-than-ample meal. The waitress behind the counter started opening a half-bottle of pink sake and we were both intrigued. I’m sorry I didn’t get its name, but a few moments later, Chef Nick arrived with a small clay dish of house-made Ume and Coconut sorbet and proceeded to pour the sweet sake over the frozen delight. Almost a palate-cleanser this easily could have happily finished the meal for us, but there was more. Bedecked with birthday candle was a mochi cake and knowing what a Fried Dough Ho I am, a smaller serving of his infamous Seagull Eggs with strawberry jam. The mochi cake gave that classic chewy texture with hints of sweetness and a bit of creamy topping. I love the beignets that Chef Nick produces but believe they are better when made larger and stay fluffier; the smaller versions get a bit tough but are still well-loved by yours’ truly.
Nombe on Urbanspoon

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply