Tuesday, November 12, 2013

156. Bay Area - Gathering for Bo Ssam at Namu Gaji (SF: Mission)

While waiting in line for Bi-Rite Creamery, have you ever peered in through the windows of the restaurant next door to see what those happy hipster looking people are eating? Well, near the windows it is likely that you will find an interesting array of Asian American fusion cuisine based on Korean roots, like a grass fed burger with kimchi relish or a bowl of handmade ramen with 4505 hot dogs.  At the communal table in the center of the restaurant you may find a crowd pleasing bo ssam pork belly dinner.  This is what Namu Gaji is known for.  The dinner feeds at least five hungry hippos with divinely crisp pork belly, raw oysters, fresh local vegetables, pickles, kimchi, and all the lettuce, cabbage, and sauce imaginable.  It is similar to the bo ssam dinner from David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York, but unlike Momofuku, it doesn't take forever and a day to get a reservation for the meal.  And rather than just being a hip spot to meet up, Namu offers a nostalgia from the Lee brothers' childhood that gets transcended into the food. 

I gathered my friends from my study abroad program for a little catch up dinner in the city.  It has been five years since we left Shanghai, and it was time for a family style meal for us to share food and share updates on our lives.  Just like old times, Joyce suggested the restaurant, and I did the ordering.  Before we began our extravaganza of wrapping pork belly in various vegetables, we started with the Sichuan pepper chicken wings and the okonomiyaki.  The chicken wings wowed with its numbing peppery spice, and the okonomiyaki awed with its ever eerie dancing bonito shavings.  The Japanese quiche like pancake was more authentic than it was modern Asian, and I can appreciate that.  It was hot in temperature (it comes on a skillet) but warm in the emotion that it was served with.

The homeyness of the food on the menu was just enough to make my friends from Fudan feel comfortable and right at home, which made for an ideal spot to convene and connect.  Until the next gathering, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Namu Gaji
499 Dolores St. @ 18th St.
Mission District
San Francisco, CA 94110

ML - 20130903

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