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Bar Tartine Chefs' Experimental Mission Restaurant to Change Gears

Becoming a Central European restaurant called Duna

Cortney Burns and Nick Balla, the longtime chef duo behind now-closed Bar Tartine, are taking what they’ve learned from their temporary, experimental restaurant Motze and reopening it as a Central European concept called Duna. It’s the next iteration of the chefs’ experiment, with a quick turnaround: Motze will close on May 28 for an interior revamp and Duna will debut on Thursday, June 1.

The restaurant, which has a limited lease of 18 months, was always intended as a way to test out solutions to problems Balla and Burns recognized in the restaurant industry, from tipping to waste. The chefs did away with paper entirely — no printed menus or receipts — and their original prix-fixe format was tipless, a holy grail for progressive restaurants.

But Chronicle critic Michael Bauer considered the affair a bit too experimental. He dismissed the restaurant with a one-and-a-half star review, calling it “more food lab than enjoyable dining experience.” Reservations dried up, Balla and Burns reported, and Motze went fast-casual. That format will remain at Duna.

For Balla and Burns, Central European cooking is close to home: Balla spent his teenage years in Budapest, and Burns’ roots are Eastern European Jewish. As a result, diners can expect potato flatbreads (a throwback to their Bar Tartine menu), pickles and liptaeur (paprika farmers cheese), and salads intended to be eaten with a spoon. A Rusa salad (beets, squash, sweet potato, and a green herb sauce dressed with kvass and lime) displays the chefs’ global inspirations, combining Russian and Mexican flavors.

The space, a DIY conversion from former tenant Herbivore Grill to Motze, will receive another quick upgrade. Duna’s aesthetic will feature a leaf-canopied patio and wood meant to evoke the landscape of the restaurant’s namesake river — Duna is Hungarian for Danube.

Until Duna arrives, fans of Motze — there were many, despite Bauer’s opinions — can head in to 983 Valencia for chanko nabe and okazu through its final service on May 27.

Bar Tartine

561 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 415 487 1600


983 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 484-1206 Visit Website