Motze, the new project from chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns, opens tonight in the former Herbivore space on Valencia Street. It is essentially a pop-up, as the duo only has one and a half years to do their thing in that location, but it has the elements of a seriously interesting restaurant. (And since they’ve announced their departure from Bar Tartine, they’ll have even more time to work on it, and their upcoming restaurant Crescent.)
The limited-time restaurant is named for Motze, a 5th Century BCE philosopher who advocated transparency, simplicity, and universal love. The restaurant’s own philosophy is also based on those tenets, taking into consideration some of the problems that today’s restaurants are facing, including food waste, tipping, and sustainability. “It’s really experimental,” Balla told Eater. “It’s relating to problems with the industry that bother us but that we’ve been unable to solve; the formula seems to be that you have to change everything to make it work.” The idea is to streamline everything by cutting out the unnecessary.
To that end, there will be no paper in the restaurant: Menus will be written daily on boards hung on the walls, and no receipts will be automatically printed (though they are available upon request). The menu changes daily based upon what is available through a monthly retainer with Yountville’s Full Table Farms— the restaurant uses whatever the farm delivers. A modest kitchen set-up with one six-burner gas stove and induction burners cuts out extra equipment and energy, while the complete use of whole animals and unprocessed vegetables cuts down on waste.
And, there will be no tipping, a move that many restaurants have struggled with in the Bay Area. Motze will offer one curated menu at one price ($58), with additional options for beer and wine. While technically the menu is three courses served family style, Balla says the plan is to “feed you until you’re full,” filling the table with a generous spread of small to large savory dishes a few times, followed by desserts. Guests with restrictions or allergies will also be exceptionally taken care of says Balla. “We take pride in being able to feed people who have challenges just as well, if not better, than people with no restrictions.”
Because of the short-term nature of the space, Motze has been a completely DIY affair, built by employees, friends, and family, including Balla’s parents from Michigan. Most items are repurposed, in accordance with the concept, for mostly ethical (rather than monetary) reasons. Used lumber, repurposed tile, and artwork from artist employees are all featured prominently.
Motze will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30pm–10pm.