When our beloved Mary Malouf first wrote about Nohm in December 2020, she said, “I haven’t eaten Japanese food this good since the days of Naked Fish: Every dish beautifully presented with flavor combinations from rigorously traditional to delicately fused.” I couldn’t have agreed with her more. Nohm was both deliciously crafted and an intellectual dine. Chef David Chon Nohm was also nominated by Ryan Lowder of Copper Onion for the 2022 Salt Lake Magazine Dining Awards. But the unfortunate timing around opening right smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic equated to challenges all around, and the doors closed for a time.
I’m delighted that Chef David Chon is back with a partnership with the gents from Water Witch. And by back, I mean with open doors and heady food as Bar Nohm and cocktails crafted by the Witchy team to go perfectly with the menu. As a sister bar, I was delighted to be able to pick up my pre-gaming cocktail from the bar at Water Witch and carry it over to Bar Nohm for dinner like an actual grown-up. It felt very illicit, given Utah’s liquor laws.
As part of the reopening, Bar Nohm also went through a remodel. With a door between the two (a la Bar X / Beer Bar Downtown), the space feels intimate with communal tables, large group booths, and two tops tucked around a corner. So, if intimate feel like cozying up elbow-to-elbow in a crowd, a circle of your closest friends, or a discrete table for two, you’ll find it here.
One thing that didn’t change during the remodel? The fully visible binchotan grill. Binchotan charcoal burns hotter, cleaner, and way than your run-of-the-mill bbq briquettes. It cooks with an almost infrared light. You’ll find these grills designed for cooking bites of meat or seafood on sticks all over Japan. But this is a novelty in Utah. It creates a rich smoke to the food you won’t want to miss out on. The design geek in me couldn’t help but enjoy the charred planks on the wall to go along with the theme of the charcoal grill – something left over from the first generation of Nohm.
With the new concept comes a new menu. With a nod to “izakaya,” or Japanese drinking culture, the menu is designed for gathering cocktails and sharing food. I suggest that you start with several of the skewers. They will arrive hot off the Binchotan grill, smokey, dressed, and ready to eat. The selection rotates in and out, so ask for recommendations. I had pork belly and chicken thighs. Both delicious. I also got the chicken skin skewer, which puffs and crisps up as it cooks and is a wonderfully fatty bite. If you want to be brave and challenge your palate, go for the chicken gizzards or chicken neck. I tried and liked both during the last iteration of Nohm.
Speaking of challenging yourself with a menu, my must-order recommendation is a bit of an intellectual exercise to wrap your head around. But bear with me and trust. The chilled fried fish sounds like a misnomer or a little odd at best. You don’t usually hear chilled/fried in the same sentence. But think of how delicious fried chicken is cold out of the fridge at midnight as you order this dish. Made with crispy fried mackerel (a dense and meaty fish), then chilled down and served with tofu, zucchini, and a sweet and sour sauce that was almost more of a broth in the bottom of the bowl. It shouldn’t work. But it does.
Bottom line: I fully expect Bar Nohm to outshine other Japanese restaurants in town (again) in no time. While it felt like there were still a few kinks to iron out being in a new space, in the words of Mary again, “Fight the tendency to play it safe and go eat at Nohm. It will help keep your brain and tastebuds from atrophy.”
This is a new concept, and the menu adapts and changes daily (I’ve been back three times, and it was different each time). So take my recommendations with a grain of salt and a sense of adventure. Oh, and make a reservation.
If You Visit:
Enjoy Bar Nohm and sister bar Water Witch
165 W. 900 South
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