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One Dish: Sweetbreads In Japanese Black Curry

by Trevor Felch

Photo courtesy Brianna Danner.
Photo courtesy Brianna Danner.


2316 Polk Street, San Francisco. For reservations, visit

It seems like a challenge in culinary school — make sweetbreads amazing! Yet, while not always a crowd-pleaser, the delicacy can be a thrilling canvas for innovative chefs. They were part of a longtime favorite at La Folie, appearing in a terrine with pig’s feet and lobster. Today, the iconic Russian Hill space once occupied by the French establishment is home to Nisei, which also serves sweetbreads in what has emerged as an early signature dish.

Chef-owner David Yoshimura launched Nisei as a pop-up on his free days while he was chef de cuisine at Californios. In August, it debuted as a full-fledged restaurant. At Nisei, Yoshimura’s sweetbreads preparation shows how he explores his Japanese-American background with a captivating, contemporary style of cooking. The centerpiece ingredient is brined and slow-braised for two days, then fried in the karaage style. Yoshimura serves it with a 20-ingredient black curry, chanterelle mushrooms steamed with sake, fermented cabbage and cilantro flowers. It’s one of 14 courses on the breathtaking tasting menu that proves fine dining is alive and well heading into 2022.

Wine pairings: Nisei recommends Domaine Mann’s 2017 Pinot Gris from Letzenberg in Alsace. This could also be an excellent dish for a less funky orange wine — which is made with white grapes that have their skins intact — like the Sabbia by Paolo Demarie, an Arneis from Piedmont, Italy. Or this is a good opportunity to open a sharp, slightly aged riesling from regions like Australia’s Clare Valley (try to find one from Tim Adams) or the Finger Lakes of New York (consider Dr. Konstantin Frank, Ravines and Element).

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