Namu Gaji is a “New Korean” restaurant opened in 2012 by three brothers in a prime location in the Mission on the corner of 18th and Dolores in San Francisco. On the menu are Korean as well as Japanese-inspired dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, including from the owners’ local farm. Small plates and larger plates are served family style.
Ramyun – homemade ramen noodles, 4505 Meats hot dog slices, kimchee, bean sprouts, and a panko-crusted soft egg in a delicious, hearty, spicy red broth. My favorite dish on the menu. There are 24 orders available per night.
Korean Fried Chicken (kfc on the menu)- super crunchy fried chicken coated in a sticky sweet, spicy red pepper sauce, served with a dashi gravy and tart pickled daikon and a cabbage slaw. The flavor of the chicken coating was delicious, and the daikon was a great side to go with the chicken. 1/2 chicken for $35
Stone Pot – Namu Gaji’s take on bibimbap with rice crisped in the stone pot serving vessel, various vegetables, a fried egg, optional steak, and gochujang (a sweet, spicy red pepper sauce). This was good, but not particularly special. $16 (+ $5 for steak), so definitely pricy for bibimbap.
Two appetizers were excellent:
Dumpling – shiitake mushroom dumplings in a flavorful, earthy broth.
Octopus – tender chunks of octopus, pumpkin, in a spicy gochujang sauce.
One dish on the menu I wanted to try was the Bo Ssam – pork shoulder with oysters and other accompaniements. It is $100 and serves 5 – 8 people, and there are two available per night.
Dessert – there were rotating flavors of shaved ice available. I had the yuzu shaved ice, with candied kumquats and graham cracker crumble. It was delicious and refreshing after a heavy meal, but one of my dinner companions said something to the effect of, only in San Francisco is a bowl of ice $8.
I can’t help but compare the menu to Momofuku in New York, which also sells Korean Fried Chicken, Bo Ssam, and, of course, ramen. There is definitely a similar philosophy of using Korean and other Asian dishes as a starting point for more modern or innovative versions, but the owners of Namu Gaji have their own unique vision.
Service is very friendly. They were very busy on both Sunday and Tuesday nights. Reservations can be made online through UrbanSpoon. The restaurant space is warm and inviting. There is an open kitchen, a long communal table, and scattered small tables and seating along the window and kitchen. The seats were backless stools, which were a little uncomfortable, but probably necessary given the small footprint of the restaurant. Definitely recommended.
Link to Namu Gaji restaurant website here.