So we were concerned, to say the least, when Nohm closed temporarily, fearing that the closure might become permanent. As it turns out, Nohm was on hiatus transitioning to become a 21-and-over establishment now called Bar Nohm. In recent months, David Chon teamed up with Water Witch bar owners Sean Neves and Scott Gardner to create Bar Nohm. During that time, Nohm received a total makeover and the space is more intimate now. There’s a new portal connecting adjacent neighbors – Water Witch and Bar Nohm – which allows customers to roam from one bar to the other with drink in hand. The two bars also share a patio for warm weather imbibing and noshing.
Arnold – Barman Extraordinaire
While Water Witch offers award-winning cocktails made by world-glass mixologists – and a bar bites menu of tinned fish, olives and such – Bar Nohm is a full-service eatery with a really great bar of its own. It’s a win-win. Our bartender for the night was exceptional – Arnold – who in the past served as bar manager at Ivy & Varley, among others. Arnold is just one of a superb staff at Bar Nohm, which includes Cliff – a mixologist and server who my wife and I first met and were impressed with when he was at BTG Wine Bar. He knew every last detail of the Nohm menu, which he mentioned is still a work in progress at the newly birthed bar.
Hey Kitten Cocktail
Stop in to Bar Nohm and have Arnold concoct a cocktail like the Nohm Martini ($14), with Tequila, Pisco, Wasabi, Apple and Bitter Melon – a drink described on the menu as “Vegetal and light, not your parents martini.” I also love the Hey Kitten cocktail ($14) that Arnold mixed for us, a scrumptious blend of Vodka, Raspberry, Calpico, Salers Aperitif and Lemon. The menu says it’s “Bright and beautiful, just like you.” So true!
I mentioned that Bar Nohm is more intimate than its predecessor. There are seats at the bar, tables and backless stools across from the bar, a long communal table, and a pair of booths in a nook that looks into Nohm’s exhibition kitchen – those booths seem to be prime perches and have the feel of a private dining area.
The main idea behind the transformation of Nohm into Bar Nohm was to create an izakaya atmosphere. Izakaya is a Japanese term for an informal bar that serves drinks and snacks, similar to a tapas bar in Spain. The atmosphere is usually casual and pub-like. The main difference between Bar Nohm and a typical izakaya serving pub food is that the food from David Chon’s kitchen is several notches above the fare you’d normally expect in a Japanese izakaya, and so is the atmosphere. :You’re going to love what they’ve done with the place.
Fish Belly & Pork-Wrapped Enoki Skewers
One of the specialties at Bar Nohm – as was the case with Nohm restaurant – is the grilled skewers. Commonly called yakitori in Japan, true yakitori (usually referring to grilled chicken) is made using top-notch, ridiculously expensive Japanese charcoal called binchō-tan. It’s made from Japanese oak and I’m told that what makes binchō-tan so special isn’t that it burns at an extremely high temperature – which some people think – but rather that it is a very pure, high-quality charcoal product that burns very evenly. Chef Chon uses binchō-tan charcoal to prepare his amazing skewers such as the skin-on fish belly and pork-wrapped enoki skewers that we began our Bar Nohm meal with. I was told that Chon designed Nohm’s binchō-tan grill himself.
In addition to yakitori, Chon and his team do wonders with fish, whether raw or cooked. To wit, there’s a lovely Grilled Sea Bass ($15) dish on the menu in a tamarind sauce with fried burdock root and dill, as well as Chilled Fried Fish ($12) – mackerel with tofu, zucchini and sweet n’ sour sauce. We really enjoyed the Spicy Amberjack ($16) which was generously portioned slices of raw amberjack (a type of bluefish) smothered in a spicy salad with shredded carrot, nori, black sesame seeds, perilla and seasoned, I think, with gochujang. Every dish at Bar Nohm seems to come to the table on its own unique, beautifully crafted plate. I don’t recall seeing the same plate twice during a dinner of many courses.
My wife really loved that everything on the Bar Nohm menu was gluten-free. I don’t think I’ve seen that in another restaurant. Among the array of gluten-free dishes is a Mountain Potato Pancake ($13) with yam, tofu cream, meat crumbs and herb salad, and the Buckwheat Dumpling dish ($15) that we enjoyed: hearty homemade buckwheat dumplings with mushrooms, beef, and microgreens in a light broth.
While professionally crafted cocktails are the main draw at Water Witch and Bar Nohm, there is also a limited selection of beer, sake, soju, and wine, including a sparkling rice wine and Gaspard Sauvignon Blanc from France, a very versatile white wine which we sipped with dinner.
On the wall above the 25-foot cocktail bar and hanging from the ceiling are numerous (Korean?) masks and mascots that lend a whimsical note to the Nohm reboot. The remodel also includes imported flexible Dukta wood panels that serve both to beautify and to create individual dining/drinking spaces. It took a small village of artisans and craftspeople to design and execute the top-to-bottom renovation that resulted in Bar Nohm, one of the most unique and attractive dining & drink destinations in the city.
Although Chon doesn’t want to be thought of as a sushi chef or Bar Nohm as a sushi spot, he does really know his fish and his menu regularly features outstanding sashimi, crudo and such. The top-quality Bluefin Sashimi ($23) we had was six large pieces of gorgeous raw bluefin served simply with wasabi and ginger – a real highlight of our visit.
Skewers: Chicken Thigh, Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Heart, Wagyu Beef
We wrapped up our Bar Nohm meal with a quartet of skewers: Chicken Thigh ($5), Chicken Heart ($4), Chicken Gizzard ($4), and Wagyu Beef ($12). All were grilled to perfection and we especially loved the tender chicken thigh and melt-in-the-mouth Wagyu, garnished with a tasty dollop of cumin puree. Chicken gizzard is delicious albeit a tad challenging with its crunchy cartilage-type texture. Other skewers available include the aforementioned Pork Wrapped Enoki ($8), Chicken Skin ($4), and Chicken Tender ($4).
I can’t tell you how happy my wife and I are that Nohm survived both the challenges of COVID-19 and endless construction on 9th South to become something even better than before. The marriage of Water Witch with Bar Nohm is one made in food and drink heaven.
Photos by Ted Scheffler
Culinary quote of the week:“Show me another pleasure like dinner, which comes every day and lasts an hour.” – Charles De Talleyrand