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Mar 15, 2007 02:43 AM

Phenomenal dishes at Nami Nami (Mountain View)

My first visit to Nami Nami was for lunch, and while it was very good, I wasn't able to see what the kitchen could do.

I went back on a late Friday night, waiting behind a family with a child. The long narrow hallway leading to the reception area was sort of awkward as a waiting area. An angry family with small kids were storming out of the restaurant, with the father yelling: "This restaurant doesn't like kids!" This of course made the family waiting in front of us quite embarrassed, since they had a kid as well. The owner/manager, who seemed to be quite nice, later explained to us that he was trying to ask them to tone down the noise of the kids, and apparently the family didn't take it too well.

Nami Nami has a nice almost sexy flair to its decor, not as fancy as most of the date restaurants in the city, but it's certainly not as sterile as Japanese places like Kaygetsu. I don't understand why anyone would bring little kids to a restaurant like Nami Nami, but it shows how downtown Mountain View is slowly diversifying from a concentration of cheap ethnic eats to a showcase of modern high-end Asian cuisine. If you don't believe me, try Shiva (Indian) or Xanh (Vietnamese) in the same downtown.

Let me make this clear. The dishes at Nami Nami are phenomenal. In fact, the last time I was that excited by a restaurant was probably on my first visit to Delfina in the city, or maybe it was when I had to step out of Sakae in Burlingame to catch a breath from the food- and sake-induced ecstasy. It is already uncommon to see a kitchen truly excel in almost every dish on the menu, but it is indeed awe-inspiring--and yes to me it was an experience really this rare--to see a restaurant try so many innovations in an established cuisine and yet be able to come out with such polished results.

Ohitashi in most Japanese restaurants consists of tired spinach soaked in soy sauce. At Nami Nami, this $4 gem is made with chrysanthemum leaves, which give a slight spicy kick to the dish, perfect with the taste of the ocean coming from the accompanying salmon roe. Have you ever had oyster stuffed in spring rolls? This version from Nami Nami comes with a thin wrapper, and the paper holding the spring rolls in a beautiful metallic boat-like container soaks up virtually no grease from the spring rolls. Kakuni is the name given to pork belly slightly fried with batter and then cooked till the meat is tender and has absorbed the seasoning. Before visiting the restaurant I had already read a lot about the beef tongue dish, and it was indeed phenomenal. Beef tongue usually has a chewy texture, but at Nami Nami the beef tongue is cooked to such velvety texture that you can't even recognize the meat by texture--only by its characteristic taste. The generous portion of the dish is served on a large plate, with the chunks of tender meat floating on a thick sweet yellow sauce. Every single dish I had there was a winner.

I haven't tried raw fish at Nami Nami, which does have a tiny sushi bar. In any case whether you like Japanese food or not, you definitely shouldn't miss Nami Nami. I honestly don't know any other restaurant like Nami Nami in the Bay Area, certainly not one at this caliber.

Grade: A+


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    1. The Nami nami bento lunch set, at a whopping $24, would give you an idea of the strength of the restaurant. The other lunch sets just don't seem as interesting.

      Otherwise it sounds like dinner is the best way to enjoy their style of cooking "Kappo".

      The owner made the right move in selling Himawari to get Kappo Nami Nami off the ground. Everyone is doing ramen, shabu shabu, and sushi these days (as well as non Japanese) and tons of pseudo versions out there. Kappo, koryori kind of cooking you would have to hire an experienced/trained chef from Japan (Kyoto for sure) to have an authentic experience.

      1. I have to agree with everyone's raves about Nami Nami. We finally had the chance to go for dinner last night and we were very impressed by the flavors and creativity. Service was also good. Even though I love Kaygetsu (and the style at Nami Nami is different from kaiseki and is a bit more fusiony) I think I will return to Nami Nami much more often. It's cheaper (though not inexpensive by any means) and I like the atmosphere better. Some of the dishes that I can remember us having: cucumber noodle salad (cucumbers made into noodles), green tea chicken, grilled tako (which we grilled ourselves on a hibachi with a beautiful hot stone), ikura ochazuke, sake ochazuke, roast duck (the only slight disappointment -- a bit too salty), eggplant dengaku (the best I've ever had whether here or in Japan). I think there were a couple more dishes plus a bottle of sake and the bill came to $130 before tip. Well worth it and we'll be back. Amazing!

        1. Had a really good meal there last night. Piri kara (?) cucumber ($4), mushrooms goma ae ($5), sesame tofu ($6), fresh warm lotus root chips ($4), ankimo ($7), grilled "half dried" sardine from the specials menu ($10), and beef tongue stew ($14). Everything was first-rate and the prices seemed quite reasonable for the quality and portions, particularly the ankimo and tongue—one more meat dish and I think it would have been plenty of food for two. Great selection of soju.

          Surprising to find such good and interesting food in a fancy upscale neighborhood. Most of the customers were Japanese speaking Japanese. Looking forward to going back with a reservation for the omakase.

          Thanks to mdg for the recommendation. Some more reports:

          Kappo Nami Nami
          240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          1. First time I've seen downtown MV called fancy upscale! (When I started eating there it was a slum, bars and boarded-up businesses lost to nationwide Malling. Got rebuilt, but surrounding residential neighborhoods resemble in character and tenancy my native Berkeley flatlands. Also fancy upscale to some visitors, I guess.) "Kappo Nami Nami" is one of the many fooderies in the dense downtown of MV's Castro St. and tributaries.

            A couple Nami Nami lunches impressed me too, with breadth and subtlety of many little plates and garnishes with the lunch specials. I agree with others here it's locally unique and excellent. For the record, those attributes aren't locally exclusive to KNN, the n'hood has other interesting, great-value, or destination restaurants, see updated suggestions below.

            Appendix: Following the example of an oft-appended Ramen-house list, here's terse suggestion of 32 "$10 lunch" and 18 "$20 lunch" restaurants downtown MV where I and many locals have good experiences, approaching each place for its strengths. It's a convenient division (most serve dinner too!) but sometimes arbitrary (e.g., Sakoon's lunch buffet is a dollar or two above Shiva's across the street, but the one has repeatedly felt more like a "$20 lunch" experience than the other) and Your Costs May Vary.

            "$10-lunch" restaurants in downtown Mountain View:

            Amarin, 174 Castro / Thai, most popular Thai locally by far
            Amici's, 790 Castro / Pizza, small premium BayArea chain
            Bangkok Spoon, 702 Villa / Thai, longest-established
            Cafe Yulong 743 W Dana / Locals' consistently favorite Chinese by poll; unusual dishes
            Chef Liu, 236 Castro / Chinese, fresh noodles, good inexpensive noodle soups
            Clarke's, 615 W El Camino / Amurrican u-garnish burger joint, good grilled sausages too
            Dana Street Roasting Co., 744 W Dana / Coffee (independent importer / roaster), sandwiches
            Fu Lam Mum, 155 Castro / Cantonese, Dim sum, especially weekends
            Gyro's House, 212 Castro / Small Mediterranean grill not just Gyros, good Iskendar plates etc.
            Hangen Szechuan (was Hangen Seafood), 134 Castro / Chinese but not for Ma Po ToFu
            Hong Kong Bakery, 210 Castro / Bakery, both sweet and savory offerings
            Hunan Chili,102 Castro / Chinese, spicy and ethnic (Sichuan chef, here's where to get that MPTF)
            Kapp's, 191 Castro / Pizza, grill, family-friendly, fine old-fashioned bar
            King of Krung Siam, 194 Castro / Thai
            Le Boulanger, 650 Castro / Sandwiches, Full-line bakery
            Maru Ichi (aka Maruichi), 368 Castro / Ramen & other noodle dishes
            Mediterranean Grill House, 650 Castro / Mediterranean, plates/wraps, unique seasonings
            Neto Caffe & Bakery, 135 Castro / Bakery, grill
            Pasta?, 160 Castro / Italian chain
            Pho Garden, 246 Castro / Newest pho place (classy broth; cheap)
            Pho Hoa, 220 Castro / Pho and Bun bowls; chain
            Posh Bagel, 444 Castro / Bakery/deli, sandwiches
            Queen House, 273 Castro / Chinese, numerous dumplings
            Rose Market, 1060 Castro / Persian grocer & unique prepared take-out, some seating
            Ryowa, 859 Villa / Ramen & other noodle dishes
            Shalala, 698 W Dana @ Hope / Ramen, opened this week, posted on this forum
            Shiva's, Castro @ 800 California / Indian
            Taqueria La Bamba, 152 Castro / Salvadorean, Mexican
            Taqueria Los Charros, 854 W Dana / Mexican; both Mex.&Gringo Breakfasts
            Totoro, 841 Villa / Korean, fresh kimchee with grillades, hotpots, noodle bowls
            Vaso Azzurro, 108 Castro / Italian, low-key, excellent values
            Zpizza, 146 Castro / Newish pizza franchise, organic/healthy angle & not half bad!

            More-upscale, "$20-lunch" restaurants in downtown Mountain View:

            Bodrum Cafe, 383 Castro / Turkish ("Mediterranean")
            Bushido Izakaya, 156 Castro / Izakaya, Japanese small-plates
            Cafe Baklava, 341 Castro / Mediterranean (considerably Turkish)
            Cantankerous Fish, 420 Castro / Seafood, bar
            Cascal, 400 CAStro @ CALifornia / Tapas etc (Pan-mundo-hispanoparlante), bar
            [Cafe] Don Giovanni, 235 Castro / Italian-Mediterranean; large banquet spaces
            Fiesta Del Mar Too, 735 Villa / Mexican seafood; other location on Shoreline
            Ginseng Korean BBQ, 475 Castro / Korean, grill-on-table
            [The] Kitchen Table, 142 Castro / Upscale, Kosher/halal, fancy sandwiches & preserved vegs
            La Fiesta, 240 Villa / Mexican upscale
            [Kappo] Nami Nami, 240 Castro / Japanese Kappo
            Sakoon, 357 Castro / Elegant creative unique Indian, much discussed
            Shabuway, 180 Castro / Japanese, cook-at-table
            Sushitomi, 635 W Dana / Japanese, master chef, shushi plus full menu
            Temptations, 288 Castro / Indian, Asian fusion
            Thaiphoon, 185 Castro / Thai and pan-SE-Asian
            Xanh, 110 Castro / Hip Vietnamese w/lounge
            Zucca, 186 Castro / Mediterranean

            Chez TJ (938 Villa, creative modern international, much discussed here) is a special case, high-end usually dinner-only restaurant with Michelin stars (count varies).

            400 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041

            Chez TJ
            938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Cafe Yulong
            743 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            859 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Fu Lam Mum
            246 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

            Chef Liu
            236 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Hangen Szechuan
            134 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Maru Ichi Restaurant
            368 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Neto Caffe
            135 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

            Fiesta Del Mar Too
            735 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Xanh Restaurant
            110 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

            841 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Cafe Baklava
            341 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            La Fiesta Restaurant
            240 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            The Kitchen Table
            142 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

            357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Fu Lam Mum
            155 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            The Cantankerous Fish
            420 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Taqueria Los Charros
            854 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Bangkok Spoon
            702 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

            Fiesta Del Mar
            1005 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043

            698 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041