Chomp Sticks

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 nojosf.com