Nojo's Japanese Izakaya | Hayes Valley, San Francisco

Nojo, the city's newest izakaya, gets it right

Though others have dabbled in the izakaya genre, Gregory Dunmore is coming out of the gate strong. Nojo, the month-old restaurant from the Terra and Ame alum, already feels fully realized.

Half of Dunmore's menu is dedicated to food on a stick. Tsukune ($5.50 each) is a football-shaped meatball made from hand-chopped chicken. It's accompanied by an egg yolk and soy sauce, plus instructions to mix and dip.

The pork-belly skewers ($3.75 each) are at once chewy and crisp, and you feel the burn of the miso-mustard glaze in your nose before you taste it. If you want beef heart ($4.50), go early, as the dish is so popular, the kitchen sometimes runs out.

Pair a brew from the all-local beer list with the karaage, crispy fried chicken wings and drumsticks ($6), or lighten up with a cold dish of Hodo Soy tofu, shimeji mushrooms and snow peas with a sesame dressing ($5.50).

For best results, sit at the bar. Not only can you watch the cooks at work, but you'll also be close enough to witness a moment like this: A patron stands, arms raised in triumph, to shout over the glass partition separating cook from diner, "Oh my God! Delicious!"

Nojo, 231 Franklin St. (at Linden St.); 415-896-4587 or