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Jan 18, 2010 09:27 PM


Eight of us tried Nombe ( tonight. I finally got to meet the venerable Melanie Wong! DavidGi - thanks David!

We worked our way through House Plates, Agemono (fried items), Yakimono (grilled skewers), Rice & Pickles, and Dessert. We also had a bottle of Sake - Dewasansan Namagenshu - and a bottle of Sochu - Imo Sochu Kuro Isanishiki - which came in a lovely bottle that looked like a medicinal tonic of some sort. I have to admit I had a leeetle too much of the Sochu (although I understand this type of food is meant to be eaten when you are feeling no pain!) so please forgive any missteps . . .

We had:

Chicken hearts (skewers)
Chicken gizzard (skewers)
Chicken skin (skewers)
Pork Belly house plate with karashi, stewed onions and shoyu tamago
Black cod - poached with spinach, fennel, leek & miso
Beef heart with sweet onion and katsuo bushi (sort of a mild bonito shaving)
Chicken livers - fried with a garlic aioli
Satsumo Imo korokke - a starchy croquette with tonkatsu sauce
Brussel sprouts - suggested by our waitress - in a mint, carrot, and togarashi preparation
Butternut squash tempura roll - with cream cheese and a green tea salt
Tsukune with egg - a sort of meatball served with egg (which unfortunately ended up on our table, so we didn’t really get to taste the egg)
Calamari salad - which the restaurant threw in for free - very nice of them!
Odango - riceball with sesame and lemon
Ribeye tataki - ditto!
Salmon chazuke - rice and salmon in a tea broth
Umeboshi with cucumber
Breakfast radish with miso pickled ramps
Yuzu pickled daikon
Nuka zuke pickles

Dessert was a warm kabocha mochi cake with toasted almonds and Beignets with a homemade yuzu jam and a fermented creme fraiche.

My faves: Chicken skin - nicely crispy but tender, fatty, sweetish - we ended up ordering this again at the end of the meal (before dessert); pork belly - I never met a pork belly I didn’t like. This one came with a very thickly poached egg and a sort of wasabi mustard; Odango - very smokey, not doughy; brussel sprouts - again smokey, really delicious - great pick by our server; black cod - sweet and very tender; butternut squash tempura roll - the tea salt really complimented the sweet squash and a cream cheese center; and the umeboshi with cucumber - very tart and salty, may have been my favorite item of the night. I loved the kabochi mochi cake - almost had a marzipan flavor, with the toasted almonds; the beignets were way too sweet for my taste, although I could have eaten the fermented creme fraiche by itself. The chicken livers were also a standout - very nicely battered and fried, big pieces, very crunchy, not at all greasy, with the very nice velvety liver inside.

I enjoyed the Sochu, which was medicinal to me but went down extremely smoothly. The sake had a green apple note, which I liked.

Others loved the beef heart - it was not my favorite preparation of this organ (I’m just too stuck on the Peruvian anticuchos, I guess!) I found the chicken gizzard and heart skewers dry and indistinguishable from each other, and just not very special. I’m glad we got the ribeye for free - it’s the most expensive item on the menu, and I just found it salty, not remarkable. Some found the pickles too indelicately cut, not a very good presentation.

Their late night menu (open until 2:00 a.m. Fri-Sat.) included many of my favorites so I would definitely go back and try some of them again.

Over all, I’d go back, but I live half a block away; others said they wouldn’t make a special trip to come here, but if they were in the neighborhood they would try it again. Service was very attentive and friendly. Can’t remember our total, but the six of us who drank alcohol paid $55 each, and the two who did not partake paid $33 each.

Pics are attached. (So sorry, they are out of focus!)
Another nice event - good to meet you all!

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      1. re: mariacarmen

        (I tried to add a link for the restaurant name but it wouldn't let me.)

      2. Thank you Maria for so excellently itemizing our many dishes. This was an interesting venture into for me an unexperienced area of Japanese food – small plates meant to be eaten after many drinks or pubbing. They have a special late night 11-2 menu also.

        The chicken hearts , gizzard, skin livers were my least favorite items though others seemed to relish them. The pork belly was excellent as were the beef hearts The butternut squash tempura roll was a surprise – so much more exciting in taste than it sounds and the various picked vegetables served after the main dishes were colorful and tasty.

        Both desserts were stellar. I had forgotten how much I like sake and must state that I am not a fan of Sochu – a malty tasting brew that I am afraid tasted like cough syrup to my admittedly unsophisticated palate.

        The service was caring and attentive. Much fun all around.

        1. Shochu tasting like cough syrup would be weird, normally it's more like vodka. Do you mean the kind of non-syrupy cough medicine that is mostly alcohol?

          2491 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

          2 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I don't know much about sochu either, but this one did have a medicinal quality to it. One person (forgive me, I don't know everyone's chowhound names) also thought it had a rather mezcal-like flavor, which I could also see.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Can't explain it exactly but it tasted just like a cough medicine I had as a kid.
              Just not a drink of choice for me.

            2. Thanks Maria, for the great details!
              It was a great welcome to the SF chowhounds scene for me (I just moved back here from Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago.)

              My only izakaya experience was at Izayoi in Los Angeles, Nombe was quite different from that since Izayoi is a little "high end" for pub food, plus they have a decent sushi bar.

              The menu was smaller than expected (but the little booklet of sake, beer, etc. seemed appropriately in the izakaya spirit!) The Chow dinner is such a great way to really taste a lot of different selections. It can be noted that it was fairly obvious we took our tasting seriously since our server took great care of us and we received a few special dishes on the house.

              My favorite items included the Odango rice balls, which were about 1 1/2 inches round and completely infused with the smoky grill flavor. Crisp on the outside and with a mild, earthy grain flavor, these were so simple, but so tasty.

              The Brussels sprouts our server recommended after we had ordered everything were dead on. Other reports back this! One serving was a generous bowl of halved sprouts, they also had the smokey notes along with a nice tart dressing and the mildest zing of mint.

              Butternut squash tempura rolls were a delight. Sweet shredded squash around a slightly tangy bit of cheese, wrapped in nori then battered and fried. The combo of sweet, salty, tangy was a great surprise.

              The pork belly was just okay in my book, I've had better/more tender/more flavorful.

              One dish I thought I'd like more was the Satsumo Imo korokke. These croquettes were large, about the size of a medium potato, then halved. The interior had a cloying sweetness and thick creamy texture that was at first comforting in a strange way, then it turned on me and coated my mouth and I decided it wasn't that great.

              The desserts were heaven, as far as I'm concerned. The Beignets were light and tasty, but it was the yuzu jam that really got me. Perfectly tart and sweet, like good lemonade should taste. Paired with that slightly fermented cream, I could have eaten the entire serving if I had the chance.

              I would definitely return to Nombe, especially for their late night menu.

              2491 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              1 Reply
              1. re: annalulu

                Forgive me, huge thanks to David for organizing this event!!!