New Year Eve Kaiseki at Nojo’s – San Francisco, CA

2011 was coming to an end and we chose to end the year with a special NYW dinner at Nojo instead of partying it up somewhere. SK made reservations for the dinner after getting the email thread from BASH (Bay Area Street Hockey) that Greg Dunmore (Owner & Chef of Nojo) had sent out. As previously mentioned, said chef plays ball hockey with Meepy & SK.

Due to the limited size of the restaurant, there were two seatings – one at 630 pm and one at 9 pm. We opted for the 9 pm and ended up celebrating 2012 right in Nojo with a glass of sparkling Rose.

Place was still packed with guests from the first seating when we got there at 9 pm. We got seated about 20 minutes after 9 pm.

Nojo Kaiseki Menu ($90)for the night~

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Osechi-Ryori

Uni, Fermented Black Beans, Leeks & Chevril - Uni is usually not my thing, the irony aftertaste usually gets to me. I still ate most of this. It was fresh, creamy and briny. The leeks were a nice complement to the uni.

Sesame Tofu, Bloomsdale Spinach – I didn’t care much for the tofu that was not as smooth or silky as I would have preferred. It was more pudding/jello like. It did have good flavours and the spinach was nice.

Kunomoto Oyster & Soy Gelee – Delicious; fresh and briny.

Salmon Wrapped in Daikon Tsukemono – Delicious! Simple but such a great start.

Note: I don’t know if there was a typo in the menu but the black bean seemed to be served with the oyster and not the uni. I did not detect black bean with the uni or saw it but I did see it with the oyster

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Dungeness Crab & Walnut Salad, Apple Vinaigrette & Persimmon Gelee

I was so sure this was the favourite dish of the night (that was before I tried the next few) – every diner at the table ate in silence (which is rare, trust me coz we love to talk!) for a good few minutes before we raved about the dish to each other. There was a generous amount of crab ( part of a claw and lots of body flesh) skillfully prepared and tossed in a creamy dressing along with candied walnuts.

The walnuts and crab combination blew our minds. There was so much going on but in a good way – texturally and flavourwise! The frisee was tossed in an apple vinaigrette along with some diced baby radish & apple. Every component of the dish was amazing on its own or together. The Persimmon gelee was more like a puree and it was delicious as well.

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Chawanmushi, Chives & American Sturgeon Caviar

Nojo can never do Chawanmushi any wrong. It was great on their regular menu and excellent on this special Kaiseki menu! Light, smooth savoury custard that is surprisingly rich and delicious with Caviar. Talk about taking steamed custard up a notch! Japanese flavours shine with the prominent umami flavours of dashi – the main base of a lot of Japanese dishes (basic stock).

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Broiled Shiro Miso Gindara, Ginger, Broccoli Rabe & Crispy Rice Cake

Best dish of the night by far!! The black cod was cooked so beautifully that I wished we had more (mind you, the serving was quite generous in itself). The fish was so buttery, rich and melted in the mouth – It had a nice char on the outside giving it a nice smoky flavour but still delicate and moist in the centre. Best prepared cod I have had in a long time.

The broccoli rabe was a nice bitter contrast to the sweet/salty fish. There was also a puree, which tasted like the broccoli rabe in puree form but I could be wrong (I am not good with vegetables). We thought the crispy rice cake was fun and interesting to eat as well – So crispy and yet chewy.

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Grilled Duck Breast, Braised Daikon & Sansho Jus

Another great dish. I continued to be amazing at the generous portion sizes for this tasting menu but definitely appreciate it because it was not hard to polish of every plate. The duck was very good but I personally thought the fat was not rendered off enough so it was a tad chewy and the skin could have been crispier (but I am nitpicking at this point but honestly no one at the table minded the fat)

The daikon was braised beautifully and absorbed all the flavours of the dashi stock it braised in. There were also unidentifiable greens that I polished off. The jus was well balanced and peppery.

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Soba, Matsutake Broth & Meyer Lemon Tempura

This was the only dish I was not a fan of. The broth was light and good but too similar to the flavours from the previous dishes (which should not be to much of a surprise since the basic stock in Japanese cooking is quite prominent on its own) but the soba noodles were a bit pedestrian. The meyer lemon tempura was interesting but a bit too strong for me, I did enjoy picking the crispy tempura skin off the lemon and eating just that without the lemon.

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Soy Milk Ice Cream, Match Green Tea

Another winner. I am starting to sound quite one note ┬ábut I did love most of the dishes. This was a great intermezzo! The soy ice cream definitely tasted like soy milk – it was creamy and delicious with the bitter matcha tea! An interesting rendition of “matcha ice cream”.

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Yuzu Custard, Frozen Yoghurt & Black Sesame Crumble

Amazing dessert! I was not too impressed with the description but was blown away by the presentation. The yuzu custard was delicious – tart, smooth and creamy. The frozen yoghurt was more like a marshmallow but lighter, airier and smoother. The sesame crumble was delicious as well. Every bite was heaven and the different components were good together or by themselves.

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Apple Sake Gelee

I can’t write fairly about the gelee since I am not a fan of gummie or chewy candy in general. SK thought it was good!

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Wine Tasting $50 each
Sparkling Umeshu
Watatibune Junmai Ginjo
Riesling, Folk Machine
Manabito Kimoto Junmai Ginjo
Pinot Noir, Woodenhead
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cultivar
Shichi Hon Yari Jun Mai
Hou Hou Shu
Sparkling Rose

The wine tasting was an amazing value – with 9 generous pours (almost full glass) for $50! I would have been totally hammered if I did not pace myself and pretty much drank all the wine and sparkling pours but little sips of the sake offerings. My favourite of the night was the Hou Hou Shu, which was a sparkling sake! Surprisingly fruity, sweet and easy to drink.

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Total Damage: $600 (including 2 wine pairing, tip & tax)

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 (More than just Great!!!)

We were all wowed by the whole progression of the meal and how exquisitely prepared every dish was. The flavours and seasonings were all on point. Definitely a Michelin star quality meal in terms of how sophisticated, well prepared and high quality the dishes were. I was brought back to my experience in Ame when Chef Dunmore was the Executive Chef… It is quite different from the usual experience here as a Izakaya/Yakitori joint VS a Michelin Starred restaurant.

Service was interesting – the main ladies serving us were a tad overwhelmed but they definitely kept it all together. Every dish that was laid in front of us came with a detailed description eventhough our menus were left on the table as a reference. Dishes were cleared soon after everyone finishes and every course got served in a rather steady pace.

We were all happy we chose to end 2011 and start 2012 at Nojo’s! Considering the fact that our favourite past time together is eating out, this was more than appropriate! Happy New Year all!!!!

The boys & the Chef!

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Nojo

231 Franklin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

(415) 896 4587

Nojo on Urbanspoon

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