Namu Gaji was one of San Francisco’s most anticipated restaurant openings last year, especially after its predecessor Namu closed up shop in the Richmond District in 2011. I visited their new Mission District outpost with my friend Penny last fall soon after their reopening, eager to try out their New-American-meets-Korean fare.
I wasn’t disappointed. We started with the grilled octopus, served with onions and coated in a spicy-sweet sauce. The octopus was tender and and slightly smoky, and we nibbled on bites of banchan to accompany this dish. (Speaking of which, banchan is not complimentary at Namu Gaji as it as at traditional Korean restaurants. It’s also less varied, albeit still tasty.)
Next, we shared a plate of the beef tongue. The tongue isn’t on the menu at the moment, but I’m crossing my fingers that it’ll be back soon, since this might be the best beef tongue I’ve ever hand. This was just wonderful: so tender you could cut it with chopsticks, but browned to a slight crisp on its exterior. A garnish of lime and ground red pepper made this a simple yet satisfying dish.
Lastly, we had the ramyun, which is purportedly a must-eat at Namu Gaji. Handmade noodles, a hot dog, a panko crusted egg, and kimchi make up this dish, and while it was good, it was actually my least favorite dish of the evening. The noodles were wonderful, but huge breaded egg wasn’t needed (gooey, runny egg, please!). Still, I love the riff on budae jigae.
Namu Gaji was worth the wait and I know I’ll be back for more. It’s worth the nearly constant crowd (make sure to make reservations) and the friendly waitstaff along with a solid menu make dining here an instant favorite. Just bring back the beef tongue, guys!