after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Namu Gaji vs. Aliment

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t says:  It was Valentine’s Day … our first in SF!  So where did we go?  Well, the problem (as per usual V-Day SOP) was that every place we knew of was either doing a stupid menu or already all booked up!  Fortunately, eater came to the rescue, with a post about “last minute Valentin’s reservations”.  While it did make me feel like a bad person for having put myself in such a position, it did allow me to click my way out of a reservation-less V-Day.  Within seconds we were confirmed for 2 for Namu Gaji (which we had been wanting to try ever since casually perusing their menu while slurping down ice cream at the neighboring Bi-Rite).

February 2016, Party of 2, Sunday Dinner.  It was quite busy in there!  It seems that Namu Gaji has a very aggressive happy hour scene (even on a weekend).  Maybe it was because there was run-off from nearby Dolores Park, maybe because it was a beautiful day (the Bi-Rite line wrapped around the block), or maybe everyone wanted cheap Korean tacos (Namu Gaji’s happy hour special).  Whatever the reason, we squeezed into the door and were seated in about 15 minutes.

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This was the closest thing to banchan at Namu Gaji – some interesting pickles.  While there were only three (sorry mom – I know Korean restaurants are a disappointment if they serve any less than 10), they were pretty solid.  No – they weren’t Zahav-good, but that pickled shallot was absolutely wonderful (we could have eaten at least four more servings of that!).

 

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The Korean taco, we have to say, was a downright disappointment.  The meat wasn’t browned at all, the tomato was insipid, and the wrapper (i.e. seaweed) is a terrible choice for execution (it got soggy, chewy, and flimsy).  Dude – just serve it on a leaf of lettuce ssam-style and call it a day!  (Or put it on a tortilla like everyone else).

 

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The mains were pretty good!  We did the stone pot, which hit all the right notes in terms of feeling homey and warm and cozy.  That said, it didn’t quite hit the loudest flavor notes it should have – maybe a bit more egg, or a hotter bowl to really brown the rice would have given it that umami oomph we wanted.  The oxtail dish was also pretty good – coming off like a hybrid of a spicy-braised-oxtail and dukbuki.  A bit more sweet-and-tang than I was hoping for, but not too shabby for “Korean inspired” (I was able to get my sweating-Korean-grandpa-syndrome on towards the end, there).  In the end, we’re glad we went because it was a unique opportunity to try some contemporary Korean dishes (a restaurant like this would never survive in Philly), but in the future will look for Korean in some more traditional places.

 

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ARGH!!  BLURRY PICTURES!!  I hate using them, but I absolutely have to in this case.  First, the backstory: g, cm, k, and I decided to get a bite after the Chinese New Year parade.  The problem: we wanted dumplings, but the parade was in our way from crossing over into Chinatown.  So we did some aimless walking, slowly losing hope as none of us could think of a place that we had heard of that had availability on such short notice.  (Not to say there weren’t a LOT of restaurants – it’s just that we had no idea how to make a choice!).  So we hit a corner and I saw this place called Ailment, and remarked “what a weird name for a restaurant!”.  Turns out it was Aliment, not Ailment, it was nicely appointed (and warm), and they had room!  So we walked right in!  g kind of poo-poo’d the menu (it was a very varied menu – not  a lot of focus – seemingly random!), but she was either too hungry or too polite to fight the majority rule.  First things first: their cocktails were delicious.  I forget what we ordered, but they were delightful.  Their wine pours are also quite healthy, so you’re not getting [that] ripped off.  We ended up ordering what could be best described as a “hodge-podge” of stuff, having no expectation of what would actually come out (or if it would be good).  So here we are with the first picture …  If you stare into the background, you see what is a corned beef slider (on pretzel roll) … it was the most surprisingly good thing I’ve eaten in SF.  Seriously.  Like, you think “oh, I’ve had smoked meat in Montreal at Schwartz’s – this’ll probably be just ‘ok'”.  And then you bite into this – and alluvasudden, you don’t give a crap about MTL anymore.  cm and I couldn’t stop talking about it: the seasoned crust, the lovely roll – it was perfect.  Had we not already ordered the rest of our meals, we might have gone back for more of those.  In the blurry foreground there was some kind of pork belly and korean sauce – it was just “ok” – I mean, after that slider, it was but a forgotten blip on the radar of our meal.

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They did have a gnocchi dish that was essentially all bait: gnocchi, pork belly, broccolini, shallots.  It tasted exactly as it sounds: delish!  Had I not had that slider (still in the background above), then I would have probably elected this as my favorite dish.  It was just like eating clouds of cheese and salty-sweet-porky heaven.  Now – the thing that is NOT pictured is pork tenderloin dish with rainbow carrots and a squash slaw.  It damn near ripped g’s head off.  For being an internal hater, she was all smiles: “guys … guys … is it me, or is this food really good?”.  She was right: we were all shocked that a pork tenderloin would be so good.  (Pork chop, sure.  Pork shoulder, fine.  But pork tenderloin, with its relatively small amount of intrinsic fat?  Completely unexpected).   We’re not even sure why – it was just perfectly cooked and superbly composed, with all the flavor elements in perfect balance.  What a discovery Aliment was for us!  We’ll definitely have to go back!

 

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 March 2016 at 10:47pm

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