Sound the trumpets: after numerous delays, preview dinners, and early delivery on Caviar, you can finally visit Noosh (2001 Fillmore Street) firsthand for dinner (daytime hours are coming soon). Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, who made quite a name for themselves with their Feastly Istanbul Modern pop-up series, have partnered with John Litz (Lazy Bear). The couple has a fine dining background (East Coast Michelin-starred restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Le Bernardin), and they are steeped in technique (she at Saison and he at Mourad), but will keep things casual at Noosh. They are both so warm and hospitable, and passionate about every detail of their soulful cooking.
FOOD FOR THE SENSES
Look for Eastern Mediterranean flavors, with Turkish dishes, in addition to inspiration from Israel, Greece, and Armenia, and the fluffiest house-made pita bread and flatbreads from their wood-fired oven. I’ve been blown away with the sophisticated layering of flavors and techniques — their food really pops. While the menu reads simply, there’s so much more going on. For example, the halloumi kebab ($8) features house-made halloumi with honey, Persian rose petals, and a Szechuan peppercorn spice mix that has Aleppo chile, cardamom, black cardamom, and green and red Szechuan peppercorn. It will awaken your senses before you even take a bite. (I got a look at their spice pantry, which includes special items like Urfa biber paste, which Sayat’s father brings from the Spice Market in Istanbul.) The exquisite red pepper muhammara features Urfa biber and almonds, and is remarkable alongside their smoked yogurt. Each spread ($6 each; $17 for three) comes with a half “chubby pita” (I am going to get extra-chubby eating them).
KEBABS AND CHUBBY PITAS
The pricing is refreshingly wallet friendly. I almost rubbed my eyes in disbelief when I saw the menu offer of a kebab, a spread, and a choice of pilaf, potato, or salad, all for $14. (Kebabs are $7–$9 for two skewers.) Their hearty chubby pita sandwiches ($12–$14) range from a classic sabich with falafel, egg, eggplant, and their creamy hummus, to a Greek po’boy with fried calamari, tzatziki, and pickles, which will transport you to a seaside vacation in two bites.
Desserts are just $7, from dreamy lokoumades with orange honey to a sour cherry ice cream sandwich with Urfa chocolate sauce (fantastic with the Urfa Manhattan).
KOOKOO GIMLET OR TURKISH WINE
Bar manager Andrew Meltzer’s cocktail program is as detailed as the cooking, like a whiskey highball with Westland American single malt whiskey, cacao, and clove. You also can enjoy the exotic flavors of the Kookoo Gimlet (California aqua vitae, banana, parsley, mastiha), and finish the night with their Urfa Manhattan. I fell hard for the salty-savory gin and tonic, with St. George Terroir gin, La Gitana manzanilla sherry, and marinated olives. Cocktails are $10–$13, and we should all be very happy about it.
The wine list features 14 wines by the glass, carafe, or bottle, with selections from Georgia, Hungary, Turkey, France, and California. Beer, cider, shrubs, and other refreshments are also available, including some Armenian foraged teas.
AMBASSADORS AT YOUR SERVICE
They are doing many things differently here, including a fine-casual format instead of table service. You place your order at a kiosk by the entrance and pay an ambassador. Hosts will then seat you at a variety of different areas: maybe you want a couple drinks and bites in the lounge, or a table for two, or a seat at the bar, or maybe in a nook in the upstairs mezzanine. You’ll get your order more quickly because it’s fired as soon as it’s placed. And don’t feel pressured to place your entire order in the beginning — any
of the ambassadors can help with additional food or drink items or closing out your tab.
INSTANBUL TO SANTA FE STYLE
The space has an airy and welcoming style, one that reminds me of Los Angeles, Istanbul, Greece, and a touch of Santa Fe. The white tiled bar and white painted brick walls; stucco elements; outdoor plants and olive trees; white oak dining tables; large clear glass pendant lamps; and pops of Mediterranean blue throughout combine to create a relaxed and happy feeling. The side room is the private dining space, with a mural by Alexander Tadlock. Eden Wright Design and Mokume Design collaborated on the design.
Soft opening hours are 5–11 p.m. You can also continue to order delivery on Caviar for lunch and dinner. Stand by for extended hours, ticketed dinners, and private dining/tasting menu experience (called Kitchen Table), and more.
Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular insider weekly e-column, Tablehopper, about the San Francisco dining and imbibing scene at tablehopper.com. Follow @tablehopper on Twitter and Instagram.