I normally stay away from new restaurants when they have such a well-publicized opening. They’re a madhouse, and the food may not be as good as it would be after a few weeks, as the restaurant is just getting going, and there are all kinds of tweaks to be worked out and through. But, Namu Gaji moved from their Balboa street location, and they’re veterans. You’ve probably heard of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Restaurants? Each year, Michael Bauer, their food critic, puts out a list of what he considers to be the top 100 restaurants. This particular night, at Namu Gaji, we had the pleasure of sitting next to Scott White, owner of a painting company, and more significantly to us foodies, spent 2009 eating his way through every single one of the top 100 restaurants. These aren’t San Francisco restaurants. Scott traveled the entire bay area in 52 weeks. His last meal was at Masa’s with Michael Bauer himself!! We spent the entire evening talking about San Francisco restaurants and the foodie scene.
Back to Namu Gaji. Dinner is served at 6, but we got their early for Happy Hour. They have a wide selection of things to eat during Happy Hour. You can even get their Stonepot Rice, a complete meal for two at $15. We chose the pickle and banchan assortment, and at $5, it’s a great deal. The beer taps had yet to be installed, so I enjoyed the 21st Amendment ‘Bitter American’ (the 21st Amendment Bar is jam-packed with Giants fans prior to and after the baseball games – must be something good about that!!). The beer was excellent. But even better, the Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil Black Ale will kick Guiness’s butt any day of the week. It had a wonderful bitterness but the full, rich flavor of a stout. They have a nice selection of sake and wine as well.
Feeling decadent, we had the french fries with pork belly and a mildly sweet Korean sauce. Yum!! They are famous for their Korean tacos, but skipped those. They have burgers, fried chicken, etc., but everything has an Asian and mostly Korean flair to it.
Our final dish was the sizzling charred octopus, with onions, garlic and gochujong dressing, an excellent blend of flavors. I love how Namu Gaji presents their menu. The categories are raw, salad, crispy, plates, grill, comfort, and large format. Large format are dishes large enough for 4 people.
There is only communal seating at Namu Gaji, a trend definitely catching on in San Francisco restaurants. The scene is vibrant, and ByRite ice cream is just a few shops away for a dessert treat.
Namu Gaji Wrap-Up
- Innovative Korean food with a slant
- Band of brothers own the place
- Local following
- Crowded and no reservations
- Difficult parking