We finally had a night out to ourselves when Anna’s mom generously offered to take care of the two kids. I had read about Nombe on various blogs and newspapers and must admit I was skeptical because I  had read one of the co-owners/chefs was from O Izakaya Lounge which I wasn’t too impressed by. The other co-owners came from Sozai which I liked much better (although I think when I went the new owners had already taken over).

The first time I went to an izakaya restaurant was in Vancouver way back in 2003. Hapa Izakaya and Guu were the only two players in town (as far as I remember) and I checked out both of them.

Both served great food with Hapa Izakaya the more trendy and modern of the two. I believe Hapa Izakaya was opened by this hapa guy who used to live in Japan. Guu (Robson location) had a crazy atmosphere once you got in (the lines at the Robson location can be long). Japanese girls screaming orders to the cooks in the back. Cooks screaming something back. ESL kids everywhere. Beers flowing. Food coming in waves.

I took Anna to Guu with another couple and we both said at the time that this type of restaurant would do really well in San Francisco (there were none at the time).

Both restaurants have done well and there are now several locations of each in Vancouver and the surrounding areas. Guu even expanded to Toronto and I had the opportunity to go there with my brother and cousin when I was there in February for a conference.

It’s located downtown near Ryerson University which is the perfect location given the demographics they are targeting. The day we went it was absolutely packed (similar look and atmosphere as the Robson location) and the food delicious. We went to the 5pm sitting and I was told by my brother that he had heard if you aren’t done by 7pm they will kick you out for the next seating. I’m like, “really?!” Sure enough, around 6:30pm or so the waitress comes by and says “last call for food”. We went outside and there was a huge line to get in.

Back to Nombe. We went right when it opened at 6pm. There was no line. No one there yet either except for us. We got seated right away at a table and the server we had was really nice.

They had an extensive sake and beer list and a regular and special menu.

The server had suggested 2-4 dishes per person. We were told no pork belly until some pork shoulder dish sold out. We asked about the street festival the day before in the Mission and she said it was crazy. People were lined up an entire block long and waited an hour for the chicken wings.

August 2010

House Plates

Cucumber with spicy tofu sauce 4
Chilled summer squash with nepitella 5
Grilled shishito peppers with bottarga 6
Iriko ( small fish ) with ginger, garlic, scallion 5
Marinated kombu seaweed with sesame 4
House karasumi with radish, lemon 12
Pork belly – sake stewed onion, shoyu tomago 13
Grilled pork spare ribs – Napa cabbage kimchee, maitake mushroom, scallion 14
Black Cod – spinach, fennel, leek, miso 13
Beef heart – sweet onion, katsuo bushi 10
Mission motzu – spicy grilled tripe with lime 8
Wagyu bavette steak tataki – ponzu sauce, grated daikon 15

Agemono [Fried]

Japanese eggplant with hatcho miso sauce 6
Potatoes with wild nori, garlic aioli 6
Chicken wings – honey and serrano chili sauce 9
Chicken livers – garlic aioli 7
Sweet corn korokke – huitlacoche aioli 8
Agedashi tofu – baby shiitake, scallion 7

Yakimono [Grilled Skewers]

Odango – grilled rice balls with lemon 5
Chicken thigh – ume and shiso 6
Negima – chicken thigh with scallion 6
Chicken gizzard 5
Tsukune with egg 7
Chicken skin 5
Chicken hearts 5
Pork belly with shichimi togarashi 10
Yakitori sampler plate 16


Little gem lettuce – katsuo bushi, fennel, radish, lemon 8
Chilled suimono salad – heirloom tomato, sea bean,
cucumber, squash blossom, wakame seaweed
with tofu served in a dashi broth 14

Rice, Soup, Pickles

Steamed Rice
Steamed Koshihikari short grain rice 3
Wild nori, roasted hijiki and scallion 4
Natto, karashi 4
Bbq pork rice – roasted peanuts and chilis 6
Kombu chazuke – sesame, scallion 6
Ocean trout chazuke – salted trout, trout skin 6
Onigiri ( rice ball )
Yakionigiri ( 2pcs ) 6
Umeboshi, shiso ( 1pc ) 6
Miso soup, pickles
Miso soup 3
Miso soup with mushrooms 4
Dashi pickled mustard greens 4
Bitter melon pickle with curried onion 4
Miso pickled gobo with cucumber 4
Takuan daikon radish 3
Dill pickled serrano chilis ( spicy ) 3
House kimchee 3


Warm meadowfoam honey mochi cake, almond, yogurt 7
Beignets with apricot jam, creme fraiche 7
Japanese white peach and sour cream gelato, kinako 7

We ended up going for seven dishes:  Black Cod with spinach, fennel, leek, and miso, Pork skins (special), Chilled suimono salad, Yakionigiri Onigiri, Tuna Belly Korroke, Dried Squid with black bean sauce, Chicken wings, a sprite, and two Coedo Belgium style beers.

We found it strange that it took a good half and hour before our first dish came out (we were the only customers) but I had my beer so it was ok.  When the dishes came out we thought the order was bit strange.  For example, we thought that the pork skins should have come out first to snack on with the beer. The pace of the dishes being brought out was good though.

The chicken wings were definitely different than anything I’ve had before. Anna liked them better than San Tung. I thought they were different enough that I couldn’t choose one or the other. I liked it although I don’t know if I’d wait an hour for them.

The black cod was good although pricey. The Pork skins not so good. They were hard and too salty for my taste. The suimono salad in dashi was good and refreshing on such a hot day. The Yakionigiri was tasty.

The tuna belly korroke (croquette) tasted ok I guess but wasn’t what we expected. The best description would be a ball of  canned tuna. The dried squid was so not worth it. The black bean sauce was way too salty for my taste. The squid reminded us of those Chinese bags of dried squid you can pick up for $1.99.

The beer was good but not for $9 a pop (note to self, in the future, look more closely at how much things are)!

Even though  the food was a bit inconsistent, I’d come back to try it again (and choose other dishes). I could see this being a good late night (they have a 11pm-2am menu) place to come, grab some grub and drink some beers.


2491 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110


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