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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Early Bird Special: Nombe

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 11:51 AM

click to enlarge Skewered: Izakaya-style grilled meats at Nombe. - LARA HATA
  • Lara Hata
  • Skewered: Izakaya-style grilled meats at Nombe.
An early nibble from the Weekly's Wednesday food review.

Big duh: Street food was huger than Jesus in San Francisco this year, which is why the November launch of Mission District izakaya joint Nombe (2491 Mission at 21st St.) made total sense. A collaboration by ex-O Izakaya chef Nick Balla and Sozai proprietors Gil Payne and Mari Takahashi, Nombe tries to fuse table food and pavement food, via late-night weekend street eats. Though the effort is still no more than a gesture, it's perfectly fitting for a place that's probing the snarly, sometimes gritty cooking of Japan's bar-food genre, with a sprawling sake menu and notable Cali twists. The kitchen's aspirations sometimes outpace its abilities, but it's unlikely you'll come away from Nombe ― either the restaurant part or the after-hours street-y part ― not feeling satisfied. Read the full review by John Birdsall later today at; as a preview, read SFoodie's extended excerpt (after the jump).

Izakaya cooking might be unique among food genres, since being hammered is a sort of precondition for enjoying it, a kind of essential seasoning in the dimension of the psychotropic. Indeed, "nombe" is Japanese for "drunk guy," like the wasted-looking dude on the restaurant's logo. You get the feeling Payne ― a confessed Deadhead who assembled Nombe's sizable roster of sakes and curates the Phish- and reggae-heavy playlist thumping over the sound system ― understands just how important getting fucked up is to the izakaya experience.

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