The dim light of bulbs and moon beams bounces off the recently rained streets of San Francisco’s cultural axis point: Hayes Valley.
And tucked away from post-Symphony rush hour and late-night staples sits NOJO, a Japanese restaurant that makes traditional cuisine with careful hands. But no California rolls.
Meaning “farm,” Nojo combines the art of yakitori (things on sticks) with izakaya (traditional bar food) and of course, fresh local ingredients. Like crisp asparagus topped with pink easter radishes and a hen-fresh egg. Or chewy duck neck sprinkled with the chef’s personal stash home-dried and crushed cayenne pepper.
An open kitchen welcomes diners to watch as the nimble staff transforms simple ingredients into impressive plates. And a warm staff enables even a low-sodium, salt-free, no-soy-please eater like me to partake in all of this culinary wonderment.
Which means I’m officially obsessed with this place.
The first time I went, I could tell they were a bit thrown of guard with my special low-sodium request. But without missing a beat, they began preparing simple but succulent dishes for me. Including that asparagus and duck neck I mentioned. And no, I wasn’t making up the part about the cayenne. Mouth. On. Fire.
But the second time. Double wow.
Having already formed a bit of a relationship with the staff and taking precautions to call ahead of my reservation, the Nojo team really hit this second visit out of the ballpark.
I dined on a very large, fried sesame rice ball
green onion and sesame oil chicken thigh (with skin, of course)
pork jowel with a squeeze of lemon
chewy duck neck with personal stash of cayenne pepper
roasted asparagus, sauteed radish, and egg plate
and this amazing avocado, nori, and sesame salad you see above.
You better believe I polished off every plate. And that I couldn’t wait to get home and try my hand at recreating some of these dishes.
You also better believe that I am going back. Soon. To discover what other amazing things they might dream up in their urban farm kitchen.
And if you’re in the Bay Area, definitely add Nojo to your list of #low-sodium friendly restaurants. And be sure to give them a head’s-up on your needs before you visit so they can set aside ingredients just for you.
If you don’t live in SF, though, or you just cannot wait to try some of this Izakaya fun, then dice up this simple low-sodium salad at home, for yourself.
Arigato. And chow on.
NOJO’s LOW-SODIUM AVOCADO AND SESAME SALAD
(or 1 if you love eating whole avocados, like me. no judgment)
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 green onion, bulb removed and thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- Sesame seeds
- Cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/2 sheet of Pacific nori (check sodium label, should read 0 to 5mg per sheet)
+ Sodium Count: Practically sodium-free