July 18, 2017

July 18, 2017
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Original Namu Stonepot rice. All photos: © tablehopper.com.

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A look into the space, featuring an open kitchen and custom woodwork throughout (including the dividing walnut counter).

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The back counter (for takeout pick-up and ordering additional items).

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The magic stonepot rice (after you let it crisp and then mix it up).

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The new Namu Stonepot chicken ramen.

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Sizzling sisig!

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The Lee brothers: Dan, chef Dennis, and David.

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Some of the custom two-top tables.

Nopa/Western Addition residents have been (im)patiently waiting for updates on when the Namu Gaji crew was going to open their latest project on Divisadero, ~NAMU STONEPOT~, and that time is sooooo close: Thursday July 27th! Last night, the Lee brothers gave me a sneak peek of the space, menu, new dishes, and adult beverages, and let’s just say I’ve found what’s going to become my new neighborhood fixation.

They did quite the transformation of the former Jay’s Cheesesteak space, thanks to designer Brian Ford of Metropolis Design (who designed Namu Gaji, his first restaurant project) and woodworker Sebastian Lane, who cleverly outfitted the narrow space with walnut counters and 22 seats across from an open kitchen. Local artist/muralist Victor Reyes is behind the Cuban-style distressed plaster with pops of color throughout, and the Lees are continuing their tree-themed artwork commissions with Mike Giant, who is going to be doing a custom piece on the front left wall.

The menu is going to be such a hit—it’s generous (fast-casual service helps), unique to the neighborhood, and perfect for a quick bite, takeout (there’s even a dedicated pick-up counter), and should travel well for delivery as well (they are launching on Caviar and Postmates). Take a first look at a preview menu here—which is still being tweaked, btw.

The stonepot concept is inspired by their signature Namu stonepot rice at Namu Gaji—here you can get a piping hot dish in two sizes (regular is $10, large is $18) with Koshihikari rice, seven vegetables (ranging from shimeji and enoki mushrooms to tamari-marinated eggplant from their farm), egg, silken tofu, kimchee, sesame, Other Brother Co. local EVOO, and nori, which you can add grass-fed bulgogi beef ($5) or organic soy-marinated chicken thigh ($3) to—it all sizzles in front of you as you let the rice on the bottom brown to your desired crispness before you mix it all up. In a rush? You can order it all mixed up bibimbap-style (without the stone) for $8.95.

The stonepot is also making appearances with their kimchee okonomiyaki ($12), another Namu favorite, and they are bringing back a Namu original from when they opened on Balboa Street: their sisig ($18)! It comes in a stonepot full of crispy and crackling pork (both ground pork and pork head and jowl, rendered twice!), its richness cut by green cabbage and pickled onions, jalapeños, and celery.

There’s also a creative spin on ramen ($15): a stonepot comes with Tokyo-style ramen noodles, which get a little golden in the sizzling pot with a hit of oil before they are covered with a rich chicken bone broth, and then it all starts bubbling and cooks the noodles more. The ramen also comes topped with slices of sous vide organic chicken breast, a slow-cooked egg, bean sprouts, toasted sesame seeds, and a hit of fried garlic. While it’s a less-brothy version of ramen, it’s rich and full-bodied and really hits the spot.

Another stonepot play is instead of the traditional kimchee stew (kimchee jjigae) presentation bubbling in a bowl, it comes bubbling in the flatter stonepot here, with pork and kimchee broth, rice cakes, silken tofu, and pork belly ($14)—and you can add ramen noodles for $3, hell yes.

A new addition will be a daily poke ($12), with fresh and well-sourced fish (right now it’s yellowtail from the Channel Islands), plus tamari, chile flakes, sesame, garlic, ginger, chive, and lettuce.

Namu favorites like their gamja fries and Korean tacos are on the menu, plus a couple salads too. They have engineered a gluten-free fried chicken, their Mochiko chicken ($10), with crisp brined thigh bites and your choice of having it dry-spiced “tatsuta style” or KFC “Korean Fried Chicken” style. Crunch crunch. Shout-out to the addition of the budget bap: rice, slow-cooked egg, Other Brother Co. local EVOO, and kimchee, just $5.95. They also offer gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan versions of dishes when and where they can, just ask.

Desserts include a matcha milkshake (made with Lush gelato) and a dairy-free version too, and then there’s butter mochi: warm-baked mochi with burnt sweet miso, dark chocolate ganache, and whipped cream, which will be perfect after getting out of a show at The Independent across the street and you have the munchies.

The Lees worked with another great Lee (well, minus an “e”) on their wine and beer list: Trac Le of Bi-Rite Market. There are three local beers on tap (Fort Point’s KSA , Fieldwork’s Painted Gold Pale, and Old Kan’s Dark), and the wines include a couple Tendu wines by Steve Matthiasson, Poe Wines pinot rosé 2016, and a few more selections, which you can also order by the carafe—same goes for some of the sakes on the list. Well, except for the sparkling sake, Dewazakura “Tobiroku/Festival of Stars,” which you’ll want your own bottle of anyway.

If space is tight, or maybe you’re craving a cocktail with your Korean tacos, the fine folks at Waziema (the neighborhood bar just next door) are cool with you bringing your food over. Cheers to that.

On a personal note, I remember these guys when they were slanging hot dogs in Golden Gate Park, and then opened their restaurant on Balboa—it was 11 years ago, and it’s so satisfying to watch how they have evolved their business over time, from their Namu Farm and Ferry Plaza Farmers Market stand to Smaak Edibles. They even just launched a new branding look—you’ll definitely note the three branches (“gaji”) that represent the three brothers. Keep it up, guys!

Follow @namustonepot for news about their soft opening nights over the next two weeks (and you might even get an invite to one, follow @tablehopper for details on a giveaway!).

Hours will be Tue-Sun 11:30am-1am (yeah, late-night baby!), and look for an abbreviated breakfast to come soon too (including a rice porridge with panchan and an egg, sign me up). 553 Divisadero St. at Hayes, 415-926-8065.

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Garlic mac and cheese topped with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos at Mac’d. Yelp photo by Sandy B..

Some quick updates on new openings for you: if you want to say Pilates class be damned, or you had a little too much chardonnay, you can head on over to ~MAC’D~ in the Marina for build-your-own mac and cheese, with bases like cheddar or French onion soup mix, your choice of pasta, and mix-ins and toppings like bacon, chorizo, kimchi, tri-tip, cauliflower, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (opening menu pic here). They just had their grand opening weekend, so they are still ramping things up. Open Sun-Thu 11am-9pm and Fri-Sat 11am-2am. 3347 Fillmore St. at Chestnut, 415-795-1026.

Also in the Marina is a location of the (perennially unfortunately named) ~ASIAN BOX~, offering salad, rice, and noodle boxes made with organic ingredients, plus there’s a full bar (they moved into the former Tacolicious). Open daily 11am-10pm. 2031 Chestnut St. at Fillmore, 415-228-3688.

If you’re catching some international (or Alaska Air) flights, you’ll find a location of ~GOTT’S ROADSIDE~ in SFO’s International Terminal A. You can enjoy your last American cheeseburger before flying to Croatia or wherever it is you’re going. (Just don’t bring it on the plane with French fries, that is truly mean.)

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Photo courtesy of Farina.

And…now ~FARINA~’s liquor license was seized by the state. Mission Local noted it was selling at auction for a minimum of $225K, which will be going toward the $275K Farina owes in back taxes and penalties. No word yet on who purchased the license, and for how much. (It’s like the restaurant is a car up on blocks and getting stripped.)

Over in Dogpatch, ~SERPENTINE~’s new chef-owner Tommy Halvorson is closing the restaurant for the month of August, and plans to reopen Wednesday September 6th. The 10-year-old restaurant (this fall) is getting a renovation—look for a new palette, windows will be added to the exterior, plus an expanded bar, kitchen, and dining room after moving both bathrooms to the back of the space. Halvorson’s menu now has more Southern influences (he’s Kentucky-born), with fried green tomatoes with brown butter and Nashville hot chicken. Small-batch craft beers will also be appearing on tap. Stand by for an update on the reopening in September.

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A look inside Maker’s Common. Photo: Molly DeCoudreaux.

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Beet salad at Maker’s Common. Photo via Facebook.

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A peek at the latest saison release at Roses’ Taproom. Photo via Facebook.

SF’s Mission Cheese has opened their second project, but this one’s in Berkeley and it’s called ~MAKER’S COMMON~ on University in Berkeley. Sarah Dvorak, Oliver Dameron, and Eric Miller have opened both a market and an eatery fully stocked with the best in American craft goods: cheese, charcuterie, beer, wine, and more. Cheese is cut to order, there’s an ever-growing selection of charcuterie (thhey are ramping up their offering, and even have a certified meat processing facility for in-house charcuterie production), and everything you’d need for your pantry or a picnic.

The menu (check the site) includes some favorites from Mission Cheese, plus sandwiches, snacks, salads, sides, and a family-style dinner option, like chicken in whey or cheddar brats. Eight tap beers and a well-assembled wine list (with 12 by the glass) will keep you feeling good, plus there’s weekend brunch. Cheers to the team on meeting their unique fundraising goals: over two years, they raised $532,000 from 170 Californians, becoming the first investment-crowdfunded restaurant in the state, a business truly built by the community.

There’s a large outdoor patio, plus communal tables, 2- and 4-top tables, a bar, and a market counter, making it a pleasant gathering space for groups of all sizes. The market is open Tue-Sun 9am-8pm; the eatery is open Tue-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri 11am-11pm, Sat 9am-11pm, and Sun 9am-10pm; brunch is served Sat-Sun 9am-2pm. 1954 University Ave. at Milvia, Berkeley.

New in Oakland is ~ROSES’ TAPROOM~, a welcoming brewpub (with a cute design) from husband and wife Luke Janson and Hillary Rose Huffard. You’ll find three house-brewed beers on tap right now, with quite the extensive menu of snacks too. Open Mon-Thu 1pm-10pm, Fri 1pm-11pm, Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-10pm. 4930 Telegraph Ave. at 49th St., Oakland.

Over in Jack London Square is a new spot called ~DIAMOND DOGS~, specializing in “hot dogs for grown-ups,” which means dogs like one white cheddar béchamel, garlic confit, crispy fried leeks, and watercress, all on a Starter Bakery bun. I love being a grown-up. Peep the menu here, which also has wings, sides, and more. You’ll also find draft beer, wine, and patio cocktails. Open Wed-Fri 5pm-9pm and Sat-Sun 2pm-9pm. 468 3rd St. at Washington, Oakland.

Pssst, ~PENROSE~ is hosting another 
Secret Garden Pop-Up this weekend, serving burgers, chicken sandwiches,
 beer, wine, and cocktails every
 Friday through Sunday from 4pm-10pm.

 And this Friday July 21st at sundown, 
they are screening Breaking Away (the best—Cutters forever!) on their garden wall—they will provide some blankets 
but feel free to bring your own. 3311 Grand Ave. at Elwood, Oakland, 510-444-1649.

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The counter at Wise Sons Bagelry in Larkspur. Photo via Facebook.

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Mac and cheese at Fisher’s Cheese + Wine. Instagram photo via @fisherscheeseandwine by @mianakanooakland.

Marin County residents not only get sun for the summer, they also get a couple new businesses from SF folks, starting with a location of ~WISE SONS BAGELRY~, which just opened in Marin Country Mart in Larkspur. On the menu: fresh-baked bagels, schmears, bagel sandwiches, and new salads (like The Country Club Cobb Salad with pastrami bacon, turkey, hippie greens, pickled carrot, cherry tomato, onion, avocado, radish, and blue cheese), plus items to go, like their babka and corned beef. Pro tip: try the L.E.O. breakfast sandwich (pastrami salmon, scallion shmear, and egg) before you hop on the Larkspur ferry to work (there is even a commuter deal!). Enjoy a Stumptown Coffee drink, or fun ones like an egg cream shakerato, coconut cold brew, and nitro chai on tap. Open daily 7am-3pm. 2227 Larkspur Landing Circle, Marin Country Mart, Larkspur.

Also newly open in the Marin Country Mart is ~FISHER’S CHEESE + WINE~ from Kiri Fisher of The Cheese School of San Francisco. This all-day café (with sidewalk seats!) has dishes beyond their gorgeous cheese boards, including Fisher’s trademark artisan grilled cheese sandwich (duh), creamy mac and cheese (yup), bites like housemade focaccia with Achadinha Cheese butter or carrots with pimento cheese dip, healthy grain salads, chicken cassoulet, meatballs in a creamed chard sauce, and more. It’s also a cheese and wine retail shop, with all cheese and charcuterie cut to order. Plus, they cater, so the next time you need a showstopping platter, you know who to call. Open Sun-Mon 11am-7pm, Tue-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm. 2201 Larkspur Landing Circle, Marin Country Mart, Larkspur, 415-779-2201.

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