Tag Archives: uni

Raw Scallop, Uni Tempura and Kimchi Ramen @ Namu Gaji

3 Jun

Hidden next to the always-busy Bi-Rite was this little hard-to-spot eatery. Namu Gaji, the rebirth of Namu back in Inner Richmond, had opened shop by Dolores Park in mid-April. The long rectangle space with an open kitchen and neatly stacked wooden tables tout Korean and Japanese style cuisine. Their produce sourced from local farms, including their very own. And the decor somehow reflects it: clean, rustic and unassuming.

The menu was categorized by preparation: broth, salad, crispy (fried), grill and ‘comfort’ – the belly-warming carby delights. While we were surveying the menu, the restaurant brought on small pickled vegetable assortments for our enjoyment. Kimchi, sesame tossed Chinese broccoli, and bean sprouts; all house-made. The kimchi had a nice texture, though missing the customary sweetness comes from Asian pear (often used in the kimchi-pickling process).

We started with a really lovely raw dish. The sliced scallops arrived on a glass plate looking like a neatly painted flower. It was a petit symphony of flavors. Tangy and sweet from the tangerine slices, sparks of heat from the red pepper. Sliced battera konbu gave way to a reminder of the ocean, all while the sliced scallop – trembling at touch then soft and embracing at taste – set up the perfect envelope for all the flavors. It was clean and vibrant like the first sunny day at sea.

Following the raw we had a crispy: fried uni wrapped in shiso and other tempura vegetables. Uni and I had been faithful for years, oh you yellow spoonful of the ocean’s essence. Any time, any where. If there is uni on the menu, I will order it. Uni and fois gras, but I digress. Yet this dish, with all my passionate hopes, had failed in the use of uni. I could barely taste it. Overpowered by the shiso, the batter, and the sauce atop – and probably fried for a bit too long – the uni became faint and shriveled. $12 piece of sadness. The ‘onion rings’ were nice though.

Our comfort came in the form of Namu Gaji’s limited-supply ramen, serving only 24 orders a day. A kimchi ramen (a popular stable back in the motherland, according to  my Korean companion) with some unconventional toppings: hot dog and panko-cursted then fried egg. Needless to say, we had high expectations. The egg was a great touch: the panko crust soaked up the broth nicely, yet still maintained its crunch. The center of the egg was of course gooey and delicious. Ah, my golden melty sunlight of joy. But everything else fell a bit short. The ramen itself needed a bit more work and springiness. Might be the kimchi and the hot dog, but the broth felt a little dead with saltiness. Hot dog was a fun idea, but I wasn’t sure this would be its place.

All in all, I thought Namu Gaji had great potential to be something truly wonderful. It was nice, but not quite enough. And at the price range offered, I felt that we should expect more. They were certainly capable of intricate flavor-building, manifested through the beautiful scallop dish. Maybe just more experimenting, and less hot dog.

Namu Gaji | 499 Dolores St. | San Francisco, CA | 415.431.6268

Sons and Daughters.

20 Nov

The reservation was made before Sons and Daughters received their shiny Michelin, back when it was still possible to make reservations. Naturally, I was beyond excited for this night. Yet, I was equipped only with my trusted iPhone 4 (without the S) and this nifty app called instagram, so I apologize for the photo quality here.

Tucked away in the less-touristy side of Union Square, across Nob Hill Theater, was this gem. Through a glass door was the white walls and rustic interior of wood and leather. It was an open-kitchen, facing the quietly buzzing crowd.

Sons and Daughters served in the style of 5-course tasting menu, along with amuse-bouche and bread courses in between. For each course, we have two choices to pick from. We found not names of the dishes on there, but list of ingredients it was comprised of.

Pickled Beet   Smoked Creme Fraiche   White Strawberry: a sweet beet gazpacho with cutely diced pickled beets and creme fraiche. Sat quietly aside all was a white strawberry that was pearly and pleasantly clean.

Quail egg   Malt   Yeast   Ground Cherry: the quail egg was poached with the yoke runny. Pierced with my fork it ran onto the small salad of shaved celery root and radish flowers. At the base were the ground cherries, consistency alarmingly similar to that of bacon bits. Hidden in between were green berries with miniature bursts of tangy delight.

Sea Urchin   Sea bean   Cauliflower   Dashi: my absolutely favorite dish of the night, though likely biased due to my fervent love for sea urchin – the soft, creamy taste of the ocean. In its fresh entirety, this piece of sea urchin sat amidst a vibrant purple from the cauliflower, that formed a breathtaking beauty. Squashed sea bean laid at the bottom, providing a necessary crunch; while the dash mixed to become gelatinous, taken the plate to a different level of umami.

Sea bass   Green Farro   Leek   Caviar: a nicely balanced segua between the last and the next, though a shade less memorable. The sea bass was nicely grilled with skin crisp to my taste, next to the caviar beurre blanc. Leeks, also grilled, oozed sweet autumn memories that the farro complimented.

30 dag aged New York steak   Chanterelles   Brussel sprouts   Charred onion: hearty without losing its basic elegance would be the summary of this dish. The steak was tender, juicy with just a hint of blood. The vegetables tossed in (likely) a generous dose of butter, bringing the warm flavors of foliage.

Yuzu   Pop corn   Seasame   Passion fruit: a playful finish of light yuzu custards with small sesame chips and reduced passion fruit drops so tangy my brows farrowed. And, days later, I still couldn’t get over how much the ice cream tasted like kettle corn!

It was a lovely dinner. The flavors were wonderfully balanced with such fascinating textures, this dining experience felt almost cerebral (but in a good way). Even though some dishes did stand out more than the others, and the menu left me wanting more (as all tasting menus do, I suppose), I am excited to see where this restaurant would go after its first star.

Sons and Daughters | 708 Bush Street | San Francisco, CA 94108 | 415.391.8311