Actually Pretty Awesome: The Tripe and the Pickles at Bar Tartine

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Chef Nick Balla's grilled tripe is the only tripe we've ever truly loved. Photo: Brian Smeets/Grub Street

Since taking over the kitchen at Bar Tartine, executive chef Nick Balla has been bringing nuanced Hungarian and Central European notes to the previously more straight-up California menu. We've already talked about his excellent brisket, which is served in a goulash-like stew with a side of marrow toasts. And today we'd like to call your attention to the grilled tripe currently on the menu, which remains (like the somewhat similar but more Japanese-seasoned tripe dish he was making while at Nombe) the only tripe we've ever loved, and can't get enough of. It's braised slowly in a mixture of fresh orange juice, chicken stock, chiles, paprika, garlic, onion, brown sugar, fennel pollen, black pepper and lots of fennel. It's then strained and Balla adds more fennel pollen, more chiles, garlic, and cabbage to create the final braising liquid, a rich, spicy, deeply umami soup in which the tripe is served. Plus there's a secret Japanese ingredient he's still using, despite having moved on to more Western climes.

"I put kombu [also used in dashi] in most of our broths," Balla tells us. "It doesn't add a Japanese flavor really, but it adds a certain mouthfeel that enhances a broth."

Balla then uses Bruce Hill's grill presses (available through Williams-Sonoma) to grill the tripe to a nice char, slices it thin for a most un-tripe-like presentation, and garnishes it with coriander flowers. It might as well be magic, it's so good.

Also pretty special are Balla's selection of house-made pickles, which seems to expand every week. Lately he's been featuring green strrawberry and asparagus, cabbage with chile paste, curried carrots with fresh tumeric, as well as some delicious brined and fermented black radishes with parsley root. The bright acidity of the pickles make a great complement to richer dishes like the goulash, or Balla's modern spin on chicken paprikas.


Photo by Brian Smeets

Earlier on Actually Pretty Awesome:
A Dinner of Small Plates at Frances
Fondue Service at Fondue Cowboy
Brunch at Barndiva
Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Doughnuts at Beast & the Hare
Aaron London’s Take on Vichyssoise at Ubuntu
Bollito Misto at Poggio