Staff meetings are one of the many perks of my job being a food tour guide in SF. When I gather with the other guides of Gourmet Walks, we check out a fun, new restaurant in one of the neighborhoods that we tour through. Over many courses we speak the language of food as we solicit new ideas and share tour stories.
For our winter quarter meeting, we all met at Nojo. Situated in Hayes Valley, Nojo is an izakaya-style Japanese restaurant that serves a fun assortment of drink and Japanese "bar food". Since we used to stop at Scharffen Berger on the Gourmet Walks chocolate tour in the Ferry Building, I started my meal off with Scharffenberger's Brut NV, sparkling wine to see how the famous chocolate maker's other epicurean passion tasted.
We ordered several salads that had several fresh, seasonal ingredients grown in California, but that could also be found in Japan. I particularly liked the winter Tsukemono, or pickled veggies, as it reminded me of my days traveling around Japan when I was able to sample and purchase an amazing assortment of pickled veggies.
After the veggies, came the meat. In typical Japanese street food fashion, the meat came skewered and used every part of the edible meat of the animal. We tried chicken hearts, thighs, liver and tsukune, which is essentially a large, ovular chicken meatball paired with a raw egg yolk dipping sauce. No one else could even feign enthusiasm for some of these chicken-parts appetizers, but I loved them!
One of my favorite things about Japanese food is the perfect harmony of salty and sweet flavors used in a meal. Though liberal with the use of salty condiments and sauces, Japanese sweet treats should not be overlooked. We ordered all three impressive desserts on the menu to share amongst ourselves. I especially liked the black sesame ice cream topped with custard-like hichiya persimmon which lay on a bed of peanut thunder crackers. For anyone who finds themselves in Hayes Valley, Nojo is definitely worth checking out.