Budding SF talent Nicole Marin is breaking out on her own with a new pop-up, Hermanita, channeling the food of her youth in Mexicali, Mexico. Dishes like fresh summer corn, fish tostadas, and traditional barbacoa are available for brunch on weekends at Mosto (741 Valencia Street) from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
A nine-year veteran of SF kitchens like Tacolicious, Fleur de Lys, and Maximo Bistro in Mexico City, Marin was most recently the chef de cuisine at Uma Casa. There, chef/owner Telmo Faria would call her “hermanita,” or little sister. The name recalled family, from dining with her grandmother to cooking her favorite Baja-style dishes for staff at the restaurant’s family meal, so Marin chose it for the pop-up.
The menu at Hermanita is “stuff that means home to me,” says Marin, though it’s sourced mostly from the Ferry Plaza farmers market. Right now, there’s botanas like watermelon salad (with blueberries, quinoa, a chile blend, and tamarind jam) and corn (with roasted poblano mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and chiles). Seafood tostadas include Japanese-inflected tuna with wakame and avocado. And a “de la abuela” section of the menu is devoted to classics like those Marin’s grandmother would make: A rich, clear red pozole, and barbacoa with tortilla made fresh when customers order it.
“I’ve always craved it in San Francisco,” Marin says of the traditional lamb dish that’s cooked underground. “I still want to do that in the US, but it’s so illegal.” To achieve that barbacoa flavor, Marin cooks a spiced and marinated leg of lamb in a banana leaf and parchment paper over a double boiler of broth made from lamb bones.
When Marin approached Tacolicious founder Joe Hargrave with the idea of hosting Hermanita at Mosto, Tacolicious’ sibling bar which is closed on weekend days, “He said ‘‘let’s start tomorrow,’” Marin recalls.
“It’s full circle. I don’t even know if she was 21 when she started with us [at Tacolicious]” says Hargrave, a big supporter of Marin’s. “She’s like a hummingbird. She just works so hard.” Mosto’s mescal and tequila-driven cocktails are available to round out Marin’s brunch, too.
Hermanita will run through at least this fall — the space is Marin’s as long as she wants it, says Hargrave. But eventually, Marin would like to have her own brick-and-mortar Hermanita. “My gut told me I had to do it,” says Marin. “Theres no looking back now.”