4/13/2012 01:15:00 PM

First Look: Namu Gaji Debuts in the Mission

Namu Gaji
As if 18th Street couldn’t get any buzzier (Delfina, Pizzeria Delfina, Tartine Bakery, Izakaya Yuzuki, Farina, Bi-Rite Creamery and 18 Reasons, to name but a few neighbors), behold Namu Gaji, the new and improved relocated Mission outpost of chef Dennis Lee, presenting an envelope-pushing slate of midpriced Pan-Asian inspired, California-sourced fare. The casual, rustic-looking corner spot overlooking Dolores Park is walk-in only, and seating is predominantly communal, comprised of counters lining the room, a large table made from a single slab of reclaimed wood and a six-seat chef’s dining counter fronting the open kitchen with its slow, charcoal-burning yakitori-style grill, where Lee will eventually offer reserved-in-advance tasting menus.

For now, the kitchen serves preserved plates and small bites during happy hour (4-6 PM) followed by a dinner menu (6-11 PM) that features a varied swath of broths, raw seafood, grilled meats and other comfort foods, including iterations of some previously popular Namu items (ramyun - a spicy Korean broth with noodles - replaces his sought-after ramen, but they’ve upped their allotment to 24 orders a day), as well as new creations such as grilled beef tongue (which has been marinated for seven days) and fish parts du jour (which could include collar, fin, belly, spine and skin). In a few weeks, the kitchen will also roll out larger-format dishes for groups of 4-5 (whole fish, bo ssam and an entire fried chicken) that will need to be ordered in advance. Sake, soju, local draft beers and the kitchen brew of choice - Miller High Life (in bottles, natch) - comprise the “glou glou” (aka “chugging”) options.

Namu Gaji is also offering a to-go lunch menu (11 AM-3 PM) similar to its offerings at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market stall: ssam-style Korean tacos, KFC (Korean fried chicken with dashi gravy), kimchee fried rice, a panko-crusted fish sando, as well as new gamja fries - hand-cut fries topped with kalbi short ribs, kimchee purée and a housemade teriyaki sauce. The original plan was to serve it all via a take-out window, but neighbors fearful of the ensuing street crowds have delayed that effort, so for now, lunch orders (and to-come breakfast items) must be taken from inside the restaurant. As the weather grows warmer, we're particularly excited about their selection of naturally flavored shaved ice (currently offered in the evening along with other clever desserts such as DIY Pocky sticks) that will soon be scooped up to go as well. 

499 Dolores St; 415-431-6268


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