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Oct 6, 2012 10:38 AM

Namu Gaji - SF

No reports on this place except for takeout?

I went to a prix-fixe dinner organized by Tasting Table the other night. The room (corner of 18th and Dolores, next to Bi-Rite Creamery) is much nicer than the old space.

Oysters with ponzu and gochujang (spicy miso) were fantastic. That's on the regular menu, 6 for $16. The housemade gochujang was the best I've had.

Stone pot rice with vegetables and egg was great. That's also on the regular menu, $16.

Main course was barbecued pork belly, chicken, and black cod with lettuce, nappa wraps, ssamjang, assorted vegetables such as perilla leaf and jalapeƱos, and cabbage kimchi. The pork belly with jang and nappa wraps was the best Korean BBQ I've had. The chicken and fish were fine but paled by comparison. The pork belly's not on the regular menu but I think they have it occasionally as a special.

Dessert was a kabocha custard with whipped cream and toasted pine nuts, barely sweet, kind of bland but the nuts made the dish.

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  1. We have gone 3 times and have been particularly impressed by the okonomiyaki (described as
    kimchee, oysters, yamaimo, cabbage, bonito, scallions, kewpie, okonomiyaki sauce) and the ramyun (handmade noodles, 4505 hot dog, panko crusted egg, housemade kimchee, mung beans). They make only 24 of the latter per day. Both are real Seoul soul food.

    Tempura was good also.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Thomas Nash

      Okonomiyaki is Seoul soul food? I think people in Kansai might disagree with you.

      1. re: od_sf

        OK, allow a little poetic license. Yes, it is a Japanese dish. But there is plenty of Japanese influence in Korea. The chef is Korean and his version has kimchee in it (which apparently is allowed in Kansai). It is certainly available in Seoul and I bet it is popular there.

        Anyway, it was delicious ...

        1. re: Thomas Nash

          My experience in the Kansai area suggests that you can get "whatever you want" in your okonomiyaki. There's a huge selection of ingrediants and you call out a mix. I'm not a fan of the Kewpie but love that sticky sweet brown sauce (kind of like Takoyaki).

          I don't remember if I ever saw kimchi as an available selection. Sorry. Seems reasonable the Kansai folk would "allow" it.

          From wikipedia:
          The name is derived from the word okonomi, meaning "what you like" or "what you want",

          1. re: bbulkow

            So I finally got to NG and had the okonomiyaki, now I can opine.

            I liked the dish, but it's not Kansai okonomiyaki. When the dish was presented, they said "the brother's personal take on okonomiyaki", which is more than fair.

            It's presented in a stone bowl, like other korean dishes, which is very non-Kansai (where you might eat OY directly off the griddle). I missed the crispness of the bottom of the dish, which of course grew stronger as the bottom crisped because of the stone. In fact, the next day, cold out of the fridge, the structure of the dish was delightful.

            Overall, NG seemed to have a lot of salt. a LOT. I've never said that about anyplace, and we almost returned a dish because of the salt content. The OY was also very salty, and a bit unbalanced, because of the kimchee. My perfect OY has a bit more crunch and a bit more starch.

            That all being said, as this was presented as _their take_ on OY, not something "authentic" (OY is a bizarre dish to talk about "authenticity", as it was Okanawan to begin with, if I remember my history correctly), the dish had to be taken on its own terms to a great extent.

            In that regard, it was a successful dish, very bold, interesting set of textures, with a good blend of flavors. The OY sauce was particularly delightful, as well as the bonito flakes. I rather wish GF didn't hate mayo so much, maybe the balance would have been regained by a little kewpie.

        2. re: od_sf

          For the sake of completeness, you might say the same about ramyun and China.

      2. randomly stopped by here a few months ago.

        had a seafood ramen special. broth was very weak - definately wouldn't get this again. thought the ramen at their main (old?) branch was the best in the city, so could see their non-seafood based ramen being good.

        tempura was decent. thought it was funny that the blonde girl who brought it out made a point of calling it "tempuLra". also thought it was funny they made a big point of saying their kimchi / ponchan was "free".

        5 Replies
        1. re: Dustin_E

          Panchan is $5 on the current dinner menu. I don't know if it's also included with entrees.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            We have been given a small panchan with dinner entrees at no extra charge.

            1. re: Thomas Nash

              panchan is always given away for free at the start of a meal at "real" korean restaurants.

              1. re: Dustin_E

                Depends on the restaurant and what you order. Some places if I order appetizers the panchan doesn't come out until the main courses. At a soju bang, you're lucky to get kimchi and peanuts.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  some places, even if you don't get apps, banchan doesn't come out until the main courses.

                  people think banchan are provided as appetizers and get annoyed if they aren't brought out right away, but really they are side dishes to be eaten alongside the main dishes.

        2. I dropped in a while back w/ spousette, & shared the okonomiyaki. Yum! Perhaps a little on the salty side, but that can be forgiven in okonomiyaki more easily than in other things. Would order again.

          1. Thanks for the review - really like Namu Gaji.

            I highly recommend trying the shaved ice there, to anyone who's not into super-sweet / rich desserts. They have a build-your-own for lunch and a fixed seasonal one for dinner. It's not Hawaiian but rather the Asian style shaved ice with fruit toppings. It's good enough that I go there for dessert after a meal elsewhere.

            1. we tried a few dishes here the other night: the potato puffs, the shitake dumplings in dashi, okonomiyaki, and the stone pot with added steak. by far, the best dish of the night were the dumplings. so incredibly rich with umami! the broth was subtle and perfect for the depth of flavor the shitakes gave. the texture of the dumplings were wonderful too - silky yet firm. the potato puffs were fine, but nothing special. i loved the okonomiyake, which came on an iron cast plate so hot that the bonito flakes literally danced throughout the entire meal. the hot pot was great, each component a distinct flavor, the egg perfectly cooked. these latter two dishes were very homey and warming, perfect for a rainy night. but we both agreed that we'd come back specifically for the dumplings. we had a carafe of chilled sake that i don't see on the online menu - it had a slight vanilla flavor to it - went very well with out food. though (and i know it's supposed to be a reserve) i thought $39 for a carafe was a bit much.

              there are a lot more dishes i'd love to try. but the BF said he'd double up on those dumplings and call it dinner.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mariacarmen

                I also at here a week ago, and also was delighted by the okonomiyaki. You described it well - each flavor is distinct, yet it also feels structured and cohesive.

                But the star of the show for me was the beef tongue. I know, sounds like it would be so mundane. But they cook the heck out of it -- brined for days, boiled, braised, and who knows what else. The result is a most unusual and delicate medley of flavors and high-styled presentation.

                Oh yes, the dumplings...the're right, MC. They were phenomenal.

                1. re: escargot3

                  did i tell you about ?

                  the tongue we had there was phenomenal!

                  i'm glad you liked it too.