Former Bar Tartine chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns are back with Duna, and they’ve given their space at 983 Valencia a quick revamp to channel Central Europe. The duo and friends repainted with a new color scheme and redecorated with furnishings like black walnut church benches complete with gothic crosses from a former North Beach church.
The restaurant opened on June 1, just days after the chefs retired their previous concept, the experimental Japanese-inspired Motze. The makeover, therefore, is relatively light. But the culinary power couple intend Duna as a permanent venture, to continue in its current home with a larger kitchen renovation at some point, or to move elsewhere in San Francisco if necessary.
Duna is the Hungarian name for the Danube river, and it’s that area’s hearty peasant dishes that Balla and Burns are recreating. As a teenager in the ’90s, Balla moved from New York to Hungary with his dad, a Fulbright scholar. “It changed my world,” he recalls: In southern Buda, he was struck by the ancient cave system beneath houses where locals made salami, cheese, and brandy.
There’s no cave beneath the Duna space, but the chefs have been aging and fermenting their larder since their days at the helm of Bar Tartine. Many of the ingredients which served their Japanese flavors at Motze will also lend themselves to Central European dishes, Balla says. He’ll start goulash with dashi stock, for example, and serve miso in hummus spread with flat bread.
Dinner at Duna is fast-casual and a la carte except for ticketed Sunday suppers, and lunch and delivery are on the way. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 5:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Check out the menu below — the restaurant notes that only the flatbread and spätzle have gluten, and a vegan menu is also available