The Napa dining scene has had some exciting new additions lately, and another one is soon heading its way. Oenotri alums Josh Balague and Ethan Speizer have teamed up to create Nuri, a globally-influenced, hyper-seasonal restaurant. Though the two chefs have yet to find a space, the concept is fully-realized, and once they return from a Europe trip, they’ll start the location search in earnest, having already secured some investors.
In the meantime, Nuri is an amalgamation of their cooking careers and worldwide travels. The two met at Oenotri, and Balague also has experience at Osteria Mozza and Market Provisions in Los Angeles, and Speizer as executive chef at West Coast Wine & Cheese in San Francisco. "We realized we wanted to cook together and had the same ideas as far as cooking goes," Balague told Eater SF. "The concept is based on the food we've eaten in our journey, so it tells a story of what we like to eat and influences from our travels and in our everyday lives." That translates to small, shareable plates and global beers and wines.
"The concept is based on the food we've eaten in our journey. It's our passion project."
Example dishes include very California-driven plates, like Early Girl tomatoes, black garlic bagna cauda, roasted beans, and ricotta, as well as some with Japanese influence, like ribeye aged in rye koji with miso soubise and matcha churros with a miso white chocolate sauce. Then there are less-classifiable plates, such as spot prawn aguachile with mezcal, english pea, radish, and ginger or Dr. Carl's smoked salmon with house creme fraiche, horseradish, and nori. Drinks will also come from around the world, specifically with a wine focus on smaller producers.
"It's been two to three years since we started thinking about Nuri," Balague said. "We've been fine-tuning and finally have a concept that we can really be a great impact in the community." Next steps include returning home and looking for a "small, intimate but casual" space that has some room for open fire cooking, as "nuri" means "my fire" in Hebrew. "We like to cook food with some elements of open fire, and fire is a place where people gather," Speizer told Eater. "That's what a restaurant is, and it’s our passion project, so it just seemed to click."
The ambitious duo (Balague is 27 and Speizer is 26) hope to open in early 2017, "if all goes according to plan." Stay tuned for more details.