Nojo, No Joke

In continuation of our Saturday smorgasboard, S and I met another friend at Nojo that evening. Guys, I cannot emphasize the gravity of this dinner enough. This was probably the largest quantity of impeccable food I have ever eaten, all thanks to my roommate who works there and hooked us up like rockstars.

After receiving several rave reviews, Nojo's been swamped nightly. We arrived to Hayes Valley early to beat the rush, and to check out the lovely shops in the area.

Nojo=Farm. Part gastropub, part izakaya, and nearly entirely locally sourced, Nojo is Japanese food done with a Californian flair. The employees even go on field trips to visit the farms. New menus are printed every night, based on what's in season.

We gave A a few ideas but ultimately asked her to decide what to bring us. This avocado salad reminded me of the deconstructed sushi I brought to class every day in high school, minus the rice and cucumbers.

Gem lettuce, cauliflower and katsuobushi (or bonito) salad was simply dressed, allowing just-picked veggies to steal the show with their natural flavors.

The Shiitake mushroom and English pea gyouza came highly recommended. I thought it was alright--perhaps because I don't like pork (none was mentioned on the menu) or because I've eaten enough amazing dumplings to build a bridge to China (where most of those dumplings were eaten). I do wish that they could always come with a great broth like this, though.

A has told me about this sauteed squid and potato dish numerous times and my lord it was all that she claimed it to be, and more. Buttery, chewy potatoes, zingy herbs, and the most tender, sweet squid I have ever had. I have never tasted squid like this before, and apparently that's what everyone says when they eat this. My favorite dish of the night. If I could eat fresh seafood every day, to hell with vegetables.

White miso glazed trout with forest mushrooms and purselane. My friend's favorite dish. As a shroom lover, I wanted to try all the dishes with exotic species. This is another one that should be served with a side of singing angels. It has the flaky texture of fish, and the taste of pure butter. I'd believe it if someone told me it was poached in a vat of cream or something. I loved the "meaty" veggies and mushrooms which complimented each other perfectly.

Tempura of maitake mushrooms, green beans & Meyer lemon slices, with ponzu mayonnaise. Fried stuff dipped in mayo was basically the theme of this week for me (four times). This dish took that theme to a gastronomic level. Another delicious mushroom crossed off my to-eat list! And the lemon slices proved that one can make anything delicious by way battering and deep frying.

With so many exciting dishes to try, and much to my relief, we didn't taste many skewered meats. This chicken breast with avocado and wasabi leaves was impeccably grilled. I'm very curious about the chicken skin with matcha salt and lemon

Couldn't decide on dessert, so the natural default was to get it. Out of several crazy choices, we were presented with the Nojo Sundae, which included black sesame ice cream with kumquats and peanut thunder crackers. Sometimes they have miso ice cream as well, but not on this night. This was a unique combo, and I'd love to try their others, but Asian desserts just aren't as enticing to me as a piece of cake. Something to do with the lack of sugar, dough and hot fudge.

I will never forget how welcoming A made me feel at Nojo, introducing me to the staff and ordering all of us her favorite dishes. Customers have said that she is the best server in San Francisco, and I obviously concur. I’m super excited that she’s thinking about her own food soon, as well. This whole meal was on the house, and even though we tipped her over 70%, I still feel indebted to her amazing generosity.

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