Top Tastes is not a list of all-time favorites (another thing altogether). Instead, I write about the best eats since my last newsletter, often from new openings.
NOMBE, Mission I was sad to see Nick Balla leave Nombe for another place I love, Bar Tartine. Not because I’m not excited about the Eastern European slant he’s bringing there, but because he had such a flair for and love of Japanese cuisine, well-showcased at Nombe.
Vincent Schofield has taken over as Nombe‘s chef, keeping the izakaya-like heart of the place, despite a more refined decor revamp in black and wood tones. Their strong sake selection remains, but there’s now an expanded wine list (with Cali favorites like Handley and MaCrostie) and beers (like the entire line of Coedo from Japan).
Though I miss Balla’s delicate finesse in dishes like Karasumi, Schofield has, in his initial weeks, maintained the elegant heart behind Nombe‘s Japanese bar food. Bites from yakimono (grilled) to agemono (fried) dishes make ideal accompaniments to sake, wine and beer, as a true izakaya should.
I love straightforward edamame hummus with taro chips ($4) and chicken wings ($9), sweet with honey, perky with lime and fish sauce.
The wings have been a staple on the menu. I’d never tried them in earlier visits to Nombe, being focused on grilled options like chicken gizzards or hearts. I am craving, and would go back for, the wings. You won’t do wrong with tender, little skewers of grilled squid & lemon ($5) either.
Of the new menu items, soy-marinated quail ($12) is tender and juicy, getting a subtle kick from mint and chili. Miso cod ($13) was salty but grilled just right with spinach, and a leek/fennel/miso mash I could have eaten a big helping of. Sashimi options (like a silky walu) remain pristine as in early Nombe days.
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SMOKIN’ WAREHOUSE BARBECUE, Hunter’s Point Way, way out on the edge of the HP where warehouses and trucks line the desolate streets, there’s a walk-up window for barbecue.
Smokin’ Warehouse Barbecue opened last Fall and though it doesn’t match the glories of the best BBQ in the South, their pulled pork ($6.95 on a sandwich, $9.95 platter) is tender with a decent sauce, enhanced mixed with coleslaw. The sandwich did literally fall apart in my hands but damned if it didn’t hit the spot.
Cornbread is better than many similar BBQ hole-in-the-walls, moist and tender, while steak chili ($2.50 small, $3.75 large) with onions and cheese works. It’s a ton of food for little money: platters come with two sides and cornbread, while sandwiches come with a side and cornbread.
For breakfast (or any time), I had fun with a morning chilidog ($3.65): a grilled, split hot dog, lathered in hot sauce and chili, with a hashbrown tucked in next to the dog. And a good, greasy mornin’ to you.
SMOKE BBQ, Hunter’s Point Smoke BBQ parks their adorable truck in another warehouse stretch of Bayview/Hunter’s Point, but closer to the Cesar Chavez side of things. They also park from time-to-time outside my old, longtime home in Noe Valley right on 24th Street (between Castro & Noe). Check Twitter for their locale.
Comparing pulled pork to pulled pork, Smoke BBQ‘s has a little fattier, meatier punch than Smokin’ Warehouse Barbecue’s and just a tinge more authenticity, reflecting the Midwest roots behind it. They cost just a little more: pulled pork sandwich ($8 with one side, $12 as a platter with two sides and cornbread). Their sandwich doesn’t fall apart, also with nice coleslaw contrast.
Somehow, though, the side of coleslaw I got was all vinegar and had none of the balance of the coleslaw on the sandwich? A side of BBQ beans ($2.50 half pint/$5 pint) was the winner with rich broth and fatty chunks of pork.