April 12, 2012

Low-So NOJO Avocado Salad

Picture this:

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.


Serves 2

(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)
Salads don’t get much easier than this. Unless you plan on eating a plate of pre-washed lettuce. And that doesn’t even count.
To cut your avocado, cut the fruit in half, exposing the flesh. Remove the  seed and then, to make scooping out all that yummy greenness inside, I like cutting the avocado in half again and using a spoon to carefully remove the entire piece of flesh. Dice the avocado into bite-sized cubes and set aside in a small mixing bowl.
Add the green onions, the first teaspoon of sesame oil, and a few shakes of sesame seeds to the avocado. Gently mix and give a chunk of avocado a taste and add more sesame oil and cayenne to your liking. Then, using your hands or a pair of scissors, rip the nori into smaller bits. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Mix those pieces into the avocado mixture as well and finally, plate that salad and eat.

+ Sodium Count: Practically sodium-free

Susan Tweeton April 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm

What a lovely salad. I like the pairing of avocado and sesame.

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