San Francisco

A Sneak Peek At Nomica, Upper Market's Much-Anticipated Japanese Restaurant

"A restaurant two years in the making": that’s how Paul Quinn, co-owner of Nomica, describes his newest project.

Since securing the former Pesce spot at 2223 Market St. last August, Quinn and his two co-owners have been working to open a contemporary Japanese culinary destination not just for Upper Market residents, but for people from across the city.

“All three owners come from Michelin-star backgrounds, so we want and expect a restaurant that we can be proud of," he told us. 

As we reported in April, Quinn and his team chose Nomica’s location for its neighborhood vibe, which reminded them of its sister restaurant, Sushi Ran, in Sausalito. 

The past few months have reaffirmed that decision. “It seems like people are reinvigorating this area, and rediscovering how much fun it is in this neighborhood. [They're] coming in and investing,” said Quinn. 

Other upcoming nearby restaurants, like Finn Town Tavern, aren’t a threat to his business, Quinn said. “I would like nothing more than to see more restaurants open in this area. It’s not about competition; it’s about having a destination neighborhood.”

Nomica's name was initially created by toying with the names of the surrounding neighborhoods (Noe/Mission/Castro). Although we can only speculate whether or not NoMiCa will become the next SoMa (or, dare we say, Tendernob), it's also a play on the Japanese word ‘no-mia,’ which means 'drinking house.'

As for the menu, Quinn first told us about Nomica’s boneless chicken wings, which are stuffed like pot-stickers, fried, and served with chili oil. Order the appetizer for yourself—or “if you think you can give one up,” said Quinn, “they’re meant for sharing.”

Indeed, most of Nomica’s dishes were created to be either eaten by one or shared by many. One of the larger plates, the baked chicken, requires a group effort in more ways than one: it must be ordered 24 hours in advance. The chicken, which is baked inside a loaf of brioche and smothered in miso butter, takes four days to prepare and two hours to bake. (If you forget, they'll have a few pre-baked ones on hand, but quantities will be limited.) 

For cocktail queens (and kings), Nomica’s bar will be serving up a matcha buttermilk concoction, which Quinn described as an "unctuous bright green cocktail with gin.”

Another drink, "Be My Hiro," is affectionately named after Nomica’s chef. It uses awamori, an Okinawan spirit, and a special Japanese vodka to create what Quinn called “something sort of like the dirtiest martini you’ll ever have."

The biggest challenge for Quinn and the Nomica crew was the state of the building when they moved in. “It's an older building, and had already been a restaurant for a long time, so when we came in, we spent months literally on our hands and knees just cleaning and scrubbing and getting all of the nooks and crannies," he said. 

But for Quinn, all of the hard work has been worth it. “The thing I’m most excited about is getting out of this construction phase and getting into what we love to do, which is inviting people in and seeing their reactions to the food.”

“The process of opening a restaurant is fun, scary, and invigorating," he said. "But really, why we all do this is for that time when the light is just right, the music is on, people are laughing and sharing food, and the energy is amazing. That’s our reward.”

“We’re excited to get to that stage here at Nomica.”

Nomica will likely open later this week, though an official date has not been set. Once it debuts, it will be open for dinner seven days a week, with a third of the tables and the bar (which serves the full menu) set aside for walk-ins. Stay tuned for future brunch/lunch/happy hour announcements.


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