It’s never easy replacing a chef who has been with a restaurant since inception, especially one as talented as Nick Balla.
Balla opened the Japanese izakaya-style restaurant, Nombe in San Francisco, but departed at the end of last year. But not before creating quite the impression. Balla, who visits Japan regularly, is such an astute study of traditional Japanese cuisine that his techniques even impressed a group of visiting Japanese chefs at a conference in St. Helena last year.
Balla, who also lived in Budapest for three years, is now at Bar Tartine in San Francisco, where’s he’s doing his take on Eastern European food.
Replacing him at Nombe is Vince Scofield, who was most recently at Ebb & Flow in San Francisco. He also was the opening executive chef at Kabuki Kitchen in San Francisco. In addition to Nombe, he’s also involved with Darwin Cafe and Taco Libre, both in San Francisco.
Whew, talk about a lot on his plate. But Scofield is giving it a valiant try at Nombe in the Mission District, a short drive from the Holiday Inn Civic Center San Francisco.
Recently, I was invited to be a guest at the restaurant to try his new dishes. The menu still has a wide array of small plates. Although you’ll find everything from grilled beef tongue to fried chicken livers to spicy grilled tripe, the menu is a little less progressive than it used to be.
The restaurant, a former taqueria and diner, is divided into two eclectic rooms. The back one is nightclub-dim, so definitely sit in the first room if you really want to see your food.
Definitely have some sake, too, as the restaurant boasts more than 75 premium varieties to enjoy by the glass, flight or bottle.