Perfect For: Birthdays Keeping It Kind Of Healthy Private Dining
PHOTOS: Krescent Carasso

We all need rewards for dealing with adulthood. Maybe it’s too many mimosas over the weekend, or overpriced massages, or a bespoke canoe paddle that will under no circumstances come into contact with a pond. If you’re like us though, you go to great restaurants where you eat things your doctor wouldn’t endorse. You’ll get way more out of a meal at Nomica, a modern Japanese spot in the Castro, than you will from that paddle on your wall.

Nomica has lots of energy and feels like a Japanese drinking den, with quick refills, low lights, and a menu made to share with a group. It’s upscale without being stuffy, and feels celebratory almost any day of the week. The room itself has a sizeable bar (Perfect For: drinking all the sake) and several booths, and the private dining room is an ideal spot for your next special occasion. Bottom line: you’re going to be very happy here.

Krescent Carasso

The key to getting the most out of Nomica, though, is getting your sh*t together in time to order one thing in particular: the whole chicken in brioche. Which, yes, involves an entire chicken cooked inside a loaf of bread. You call ahead to order it 24 hours in advance, it’s $25 per person and serves four, and is sliced tableside for a complete spectacle. If, for some reason, you want to eat more regular things, the smaller plates - from salmon belly to tofu to vegetable sides - are high-quality and delicious as well.

There are few meals we leave and can’t stop talking about for several days, and Nomica is one of them. Admittedly in part because of that chicken - but also because the whole experience just clicks in a way that many places don’t. It’s also not crazy expensive, so that counts as your responsible, adult decision of the night. Now go eat some bread-wrapped chicken as your reward.

Food Rundown

Whole Chicken in Brioche

Jesus. Is this over-the-top and kind of pointless? Maybe. Does carving it up next to your table change anything except making a scene? Unclear. Does drizzling the insanely tender chicken and buttery brioche with melted miso butter make it taste like the clouds of heaven? Absolutely. This is unreal. Embrace the spectacle and just get it.

Laminated Brioche

if you don’t get the chicken, order these. They don’t appear to have gone through a laminator, but they are croissant-y and salty and phenomenal. You’re going to have too much bread if you’re getting the brioche chicken too, so pick one or the other.

Krescent Carasso
Salmon Belly

Turns out, all fish have bellies and they all taste pretty great. The salmon is high quality and fatty and has some crispy toppings to give a good contrast. Get this.

Krescent Carasso
Lettuce Cups

Very fresh, if not very filling. These lettuce wraps are all vegetables and a good way to mix it up between heavier courses.

Krescent Carasso
Chicken & Waffle

Sweet and salty and amazing to share. Probably a bit of an aggressive order as a main, but the kind of thing you want a few bites of for sure. There is matcha butter involved, and we would do dark, dark things to get this condiment served to us at every meal.

Krescent Carasso
Grilled Fish

Your classic “nice piece of fish.” It’s usually salmon, and it’s healthy without feeling too self-deprivational. If your mom refuses to eat anything but salmon until she has a few drinks and starts plowing through some carnitas nachos, point her in this direction.

Koshihikari Risotto

This was a sleeper hit at our table. Sushi rice is great, and when you turn it into a rich risotto with corn and other vegetables, it’s magic. Not always on the menu, but if it is, get involved.

Krescent Carasso
Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Yes, they’re brussels and every restaurant and the Walgreens on Market Street have them, but these are one of the better versions around. They’re very crispy and have some bonito on them and we couldn’t stop putting them in our mouth.

Spicy Choy & Mushrooms

Not so spicy and not so great. You can do better with everything else on the menu, so skip this.

More SF... Find Restaurants
You'll need a better browser for that!
Upgrade to Chrome and start finding Restaurants.