Namu has been reborn in the Mission. The Lee brothers, who ran the ever-popular Namu in the Inner Richmond, opened the updated version, Namu Gaji, last week on Dolores Street, right across from Dolores Park.
Upon stepping into any new restaurant, the first thing that always catches my eye is the design. Reclaimed wood is very prominent as it was at the old restaurant on Balboa. From the floors to the table and countertops and even a wooden sculpture hanging from the ceiling (a tree branch I’m told, as part of the restaurant’s name “gaji” means branch), it gives the restaurant a nice, homey feel. There is a large communal table in the center of the dining room, counter seating in front of the open kitchen and along the restaurant’s windows looking out to 18th Street as well and smaller tables in the back of the restaurant. No reservations are taken so it’s first come, first served.
Chef Dennis Lee said that there is a new look to the menu even with a few standbys like the Namu Burger and the Ramuyen with handmade noodles. It is a bit more technique-driven and there are plenty of shared plate options as well. Raw starters include oysters, scallops and a veggie plate. Salad options include a traditional bibim and crispy items (tempura, puffs, tofu) are also part of the diverse menu. There are also plenty of grilled items and bigger plates as well. Lee is still adjusting the menu and many of the ingredients were sourced from their new organic farm in Sunol, where they are working to produce many uncommon Asian herbs and vegetables.
Namu Gaji also has a nice beer and wine list and the restaurant also has a daily happy hour menu from 4-6 p.m. with small bites. There will also be lunch service from a take-out window on Dolores Street that will include a lot of familiar Korean items that longtime fans will know from their street food service at the Ferry Building and Off the Grid events.
While the old restaurant in the Inner Richmond was known as a great late night dining spot, because of neighborhood restrictions, Namu Gaji will only be open until 11 p.m. But it adds a lot to an already eclectic dining neighborhood.
Namu Gaji is located at 499 Dolores Street at 18th Street. The takeout window will be open daily from 10-3, happy hour is from 4-6 and dinner service from 6-11.