After a recent trip to Bar Tartine to try Nick Balla's new menu, I've got liver on my mind. I blame his his duck leg cabbage roll inspired by a Northern Hungarian sauerkraut soup called kapusznica that his father used to make. The Eastern Europe-inspired menu addition buries strips of sous vide-cooked Sonoma Liberty duck liver in a pile of black trumpet mushrooms, dried cherries and homemade sauerkraut, all wrapped up in a tender cabbage leaf. It's a mess on the plate, but the sweet, sour and spicy flavors bewitch, bite after bite.
In January, the Mission's Nombe izakaya brought on chef Vincent Schofield to replace Nicholas Balla, who had shuffled over to a little spot nearby called Bar Tartine (more on that here). So the world turns in the realm of chefs and restaurants. Although Balla is a bit of a golden boy in these parts—earning rave reviews from almost everyone who tastes his food—Schofield is no slacker. Besides forging ahead on a new direction at Nombe, he just opened Parkmerced taqueria Taco Libre and regularly checks in on the kitchen at SoMa's miniscule Darwin (212 Ritch Street). In early January, Schofield embarked on a prodigious journey to Tokyo with Nombe owner Mari Takahashi for a crash course in all things Japanese. So the big menu changes he implemented over the last month at Nombe come truly inspired. Schofield took some time out to give us the skinny.
A few weeks ago, Bar Tartine welcomed chef Nicholas Balla to its kitchen. Balla is replacing Chris Kronner, but he’s also replacing his French-leaning menu. The former co-owner and chef of Nombe, an izakaya restaurant in the Mission, Balla is Hungarian by decent and went to highschool in Budapest. No, Bar Tartine isn’t sporting the latest izakaya menu in town. And yes, the menu at Bar Tartine is starting to have Eastern and Central European leanings. But it’s hardly this cut-and-dried. Tartine Bakery co-owner Chad Robertson—the man, the baker—gave us the lowdown.
I’ve attended almost every Culinary Institute of America at Greystone World of Flavors conference in St. Helena since they started with Mexico way back when. These conferences are for food professionals only, which is a shame because they are phenomenal. I always get to try something I’ve never had before. That first year, way back when, it was traditionally-made conchinita pibil—a pig roasted in the ground (they actually dug a pit on the grounds of the CIA) by an expert pibil maker from a village in the Yucatán—a man who had never been out of his village, much less hung out a castle-like facility such as the CIA.