Every dining table starts from home,at the family dining. And eventually, we learn to share our dining occasions with friends, co-workers and our loved ones. When we dine and drink together, we expect the dishes to feed our hunger, the flavors to suit our taste and fill our pleasure. Today, hether it is for our social gathering or close personal occasion, we share food with the people we encounter. The dining place feeds our hunger in many aspects; beyond the fresh food and fancy dishes, there is always a sense of intimacy among the ones we share our tables.
Namu Gaji is located at the heart of San Francisco – as the second restaurant of the Lee brothers: Dennis Lee, David Lee, and Daniel Lee. The place provides the warm hospitality to the local diners as the realm of strong culinary tradition from Korean inflected dishes mixed with local materials and influences. Upon the creation of their restaurant, the birth of Namu Gaji was based on family – as an inherited family culinary tradition from their Mother who unintentionally invited the Lee brothers to the kitchen from her own cooking career. The Lee brothers, especially the eldest Chef Dennis Lee of Namu Gaji grew up in the kitchen and his natural family root as Korean American, and kinship in fusion dining formed his identity as the main host of this extraordinary place of cultural exchange.
Namu Gaji means “Tree branch” in Korean, the name derives the multiple meaning of how it serves as a place of green dinning with fresh seasonal ingredients, the spacious green architecture from nature essence of local designer in California, and the perfect meeting place which lubricates the casual, and intimate social gathering which enhances the general quality of dining experience.
The restaurant interior and table seat arrangements may seem to encourage more of casual dining for comfortable setting to openly exchange conversation and to make some of the authentic dishes more approachable.
The Namu Farm: Local, organic, and seasonal ingredients
As a restaurant to serve the upmost high quality, fresh, and delicious small plate Korean Foods with beverages, Namu Gaji focus on offering the foods of the best possible quality to keep the vital energy alive. The kitchen use local, organic, and seasonal ingredients and sustainable practices whenever possible. Namu Gaji also leased a one acre plot, with a variety of produce including Korean chiles and herbs. While many of the ingredients on our plates come directly from the Namu Farm, there are also hand-picked products from local artisan producers, such as: Marin Sun Farm, BN Ranch, Tomatero Farm, Knoll Farms, La Tercera, Star Route Farm, Heirloom Organics, Dirty Girl Produce, Far West Funghi, Full Belly Farm, Twin Girls Farms, Massa Organics, Brokaw Farm, and many others. These efforts in food sources can be considered as one of the main strength of their restaurant to maintain the best quality of its seasonal ingredients, and keep fresh flavors of the dishes to be served all seasons of the year.
Define Korean-American cuisine in casual Californian dining interior.
Namu Gaji has successfully established the own unique atmosphere through its interior as well. There are intimate dining rooms available to facilitate the large number of guests in separate counter. The style is based on traditional Korean, presented as the mixture of local materials and influences. Also, the interior work consists of collaboration with local experts to deliver the unique regional essence to vibe with local visitors. San Francisco native designer, Brian Ford of Metropolis Design collaborated with Dennis Lee. Wood work is also done by artist of local recognition among the Bay Area restaurants known for their strict adherence to local, organic ingredient. Like the food, the interior seems to be focused an aesthetic that celebrates craftsmanship and green architecture utilizing the handmade Japanese tiles, wooden plates and serving ware and large earthenware fermenting jars from Korea.
Beyond the context: to dine, and drink together is to share the most intimate daily moment.
There is a universally apparent saying in Korean about dining, "People do not dine with the individual of distance and awkwardness." For most cases, it is fair to say that it’s the truth. Since to dine and drink together is a way to open up with each other in social context, one is allowing the intimate daily ritual to be share by the surrounded people. To maximize the act of on building closeness among the diners in intimate setting, Namu Gaji offers full beverage services including wine, beer, and sake selection. Also, some of Namu Gaji’s favorite dishes are stonepot, and Korean fried chicken, are actually considered the best of Anju, the Korean term for side dishes of alcoholic beverage like beer and soju. By serving these menus in Namu Gaji’s own peculiar style of Northern Californian nature-friendly, casual intimate setting, the restaurant is inviting the diners to enjoy newly created fusion dining of authentic Korean food-gathering interpreted and refined in another way. Namu Gaji does offers the excellent group dining reservation for large group of gathering, with the combined specialty dishes and beverage in a friendly yet, somewhat exotic settings to dive into the night of flow of conversations, and new connection to build intimacy suggested by Namu Gaji. Why not gather a group of friends or a person of special meaning to spend delightful yet, casually comfortable times along with delicious dishes and fine taste of beverage in heart of San Francisco bay area? Drink, dine and continue to live life together to grow along with fruitful moments.
A version of this article by Cindy Sung at TastyKFood. Photo by Namu Gaji.