This is the story of how nojo came to be...
When I lived in Atlanta, I worked at a well-known restaurant named Bacchanalia. One night after work, Chef Cliff took a few of us out to his friend's restaurant, Yakitori Denchan. We descended into this subterrain restaurant and there, behind the counter cooking skewers and cracking jokes, was this white guy with a Japanese headband. Before we knew it beer and sake were flowing and out came these little grilled tasty treats of various parts of chicken, skewered and dipped in an incredible sauce. Needless to say, I was hooked! I would go back as often as I could until, sadly, Dennis sold his shop - it would be years before I ate yakitori again.
Sushi, who doesn't love sushi? But there is something about the flavors of cooked Japanese food that appeals to my soul. That was what I wanted to learn more about and so I left Atlanta and moved to Napa Valley, where I worked for a Japanese chef, Hiro, of Terra. He spent years teaching me about Japanese cuisine, techniques and philosophies. When Hiro asked me to be his Executive Chef at ame, in San Francisco, I jumped at the chance. Ame was an amazing opportunity to take everything I learned about Japanese food and elevate it.
That was the start, but it wasn't until I was sitting at a dark and boisterous neighborhood yakitori shop in Osaka, Japan, drinking local sake and eating perfectly grilled chicken skewers, that I realized what I really missed was yakitori - this was what I wanted to cook and that was where nojo was born. I left ame and traveled Japan from Sapporo to Fukuoka exploring regional izakaya, sake breweries and yakitori shops sampling the amazing food that is found all over Japan.
At nojo, I want to offer the best of both cooking styles - yakitori with it's emphasis on the high quality ingredients, the chef's deft hands, and the special tare sauce, as well as and izakaya, where creative and seasonal small plates are offered in a fun relaxed and lively environment.
At nojo in Hayes Valley my idea has come to fruition - the name came with the help of my friend Kinko, who, when I asked her for the Japanese word for farm, she told me 'nojo'. Without the best quality ingredients from the farms and ranches in the Bay Area, nojo could not be. So get out and support your local nojo!
chef/owner nojo restaurant
Service at nojo
At nojo, we practice a different service style than most. In my years in the restaurant business, the divide between the front and the back of the “house” has always frustrated me. It never felt right and it was not until I went to Japan and happened across the solution.
In Japan, many of the shops and restaurants are family owned and operated, staff members work together, doing everything that needs to be done, like, well like a family. ...I loved it. It created a communal environment that brought another level to the dining experience. The Japanese have something that is deep within their culture called Kikubari, it is hard to translate, but the best way to define this is a care, consideration and attention that is given to every facet of life.
Here at nojo we use kikubari to define our cuisine and our service style. Our goal is to be a neighborhood restaurant where everyone works together like a family to make our guests comfortable and at home. So get out and support your local nojo.