Nombe: Japanese Tapas (Izakaya) Hits the Mission
Who: Nombe Restaurant / www.nombesf.com
Where: 2491 Mission St. / 415.681.7150
What: Dinner at this izakaya (a Japanese word originally describing a drinking establishment that also served small plates of food; think of it here as Japanese tapas)
- Variety for your tastebuds: Share small plates of Japanese and Japanese-inspired dishes, especially if you’re planning a romp in the Mission. There are several food and sake choices on the menu.
- Late-night dining: They’re open later than most restaurants (11pm Sunday – Thursday), and the dark decor (and clean bathroom!) should get you properly prepared for further evening festivities.
- Negima – chicken thighs skewered with scallions ($6): Good value for 2 skewers, grilled just right.
- Tofu Cheese – miso marinated tofu ($4): Huh? This may be a stretch for some Western palettes that haven’t had soft tofu in this form (think of fermented stinky tofu without the pungency/stink). The portion was small but that was fine as each slice of “cheese” packed some dense flavor. I’m curious how this would taste with a small side of those Japanese seaweed crackers.
- Sake Lees and Miso Marinated Local Walu (Escolar aka Butterfish), Spinach, Fennel, Leek, Miso ($13): Usually this house plate is served with cod. They’d run out of cod that night, so instead substituted walu, which was fine by us given its buttery texture. Served on an iron hot plate, cooked just right, split between two of us, this order disappeared quickly.
- Ramen – Kuro Tan Tan Men (black pork broth) with Ground Pork, Bokchoy, Egg, Scallions, and Chili thread ($13) – The broth temperature needed to be hotter. With the weather that day, it could’ve cooled quickly while waiting to get from the kitchen to the table. But lukewarm temps with any Asian noodle soup is not my preference and I’m sure you don’t want excuses. Also, the noodles were a slightly bit overcooked. Perhaps the ramen was very fresh and the strands so thin that they overcooked in the broth. There are too many variables to consider. But I’ve had handmade ramen a few times…and I’ve had it too mushy before and just right. Given those issues, Grubgirl did not feel that true value was derived for that price.
- Foil Wrapped Mushrooms, Soy Butter ($10): Maitake, hon shimeji, shimeji, eringi, shiitake, and button mushrooms are tossed in soy butter, wrapped in tin foil, and cooked (in an oven, on a grill…depends on how fancy you want to be). The taste was extremely subtle (probably so you could enjoy the flavors of the mushroom varieties). A little too bland for my palate. Also, I debated about this with my co-diner. She thought the mushrooms were undercooked. I was more impartial on that judgement since I was focussed on detecting the taste of the soy butter. I rarely salt restaurant food, but in this case, I was looking for a little more personality.
Overall it was a pleasant experience. Given some of inconsistencies experienced with the larger house plates, I would order more of the smaller, lower-priced items until I increased my comfort level before returning to the larger plates.