Every time I come back from a long spell away from the blog, I feel I ought to apologise to our readers. Having said that, I'm immediately reminded of Cinnamon's friend from Hong Kong saying to me once: "I'm going to tell you what I told Cinnamon. Stop saying 'thank you' and stop saying 'sorry'!"
Yes, the Cinnamon-Truffle sisters love to apologise. I myself have been working at kicking this habit over the years, because frankly it's irritating. So today I'm going to start this post with a different spin. It's great to be writing again, and I hope you're all well :)
September has rolled around, and while I'm hearing reports of summer being on its way out in the UK, I'm told it's just getting started here in the Bay Area. The fog gets burned away, so they say, bringing relief to those who are tired of hearing Mark Twain being quoted over and over again for a period of two months. It's warm. So warm, that I'm in need of a cross current.
I've been exploring the Bay Area recently, and I can't put the experience into just a few words. It's enthralling and frightening at the same time. Something as simple as driving from one city to another just over an hour away (San Francisco to San Jose) takes you past a sparkling bay to the east, or alongside sweeping views of the Santa Cruz mountains to the west. If you turn north by San Jose, towards Fremont or Oakland, the Diablo mountain range looms over the landscape like a uncoiling python. (London to Oxford on the X90, this is not...) The mountains and valleys are also a reminder that the very earth beneath your feet might uncoil at any moment. The reason they're there is because of the San Andreas fault line, but people go about their daily lives without seemingly fretting about this. One newspaper article stated matter-of-fact that the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge would improve emergency vehicles' access after the Big One.
But now I'm talking geology and not about food. I'd promised Namu Gaji, and I don't want to keep you waiting! Namu Gaji is the work of three brothers - a chef, an engineer and a music producer - and they've come together to create a fantastic, vibeing, thriving restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco, serving NKA, or New Korean American. California always seems to me to be a crucible for incredible ideas that then roll around the rest of the world, and this could be one of them. New Indian British, anyone...?
I'm dying to start with the killer dish (see what I did there?), but I'll go in order of appearance.
First up, a melon amuse bouche to cleanse and activate the palate.
Then a heirloom tomato salad with crisps and hotdog powder. I only ordered this because I loved the sound of hotdog powder, but the tomatoes were the stars of this dish. Colourful, flavourful, individual - like a family medley. Very attractive too.
As you can probably tell, I rushed through the first two to get to this. Take a look at this beauty and tell me what you see. I saw (and tasted) a foie gras ravioli in a morel sauce. But what it really was: shitake mushroom ravioli in a dark soy sauce with nori and scallions. It was outstanding. It was exquisite. I'm still thinking about it.
This was the dish that told me what this kitchen is up to and what they're capable of. Some people might try to pigeon hole this as 'Korean' or 'American' or 'French', but finally the pigeon-holers and labellers of this world have been routed. This plate just is. Eat that.
I also loved this: ramyun. Handmade noodles, a hotdog (from San Francisco's own artisanal butcher, 4505 Meats), an enormous panko-crusted egg, bean sprouts and homemade kimchee. It was hot and very satisfying. Listed under the 'Kind of Korean' section of the menu, it could also easily fit under the 'Comfort' section. I found myself wondering if it had been inspired by the chef's student days. You know, dorm room, instant noodle packet, snip in a hotdog and bean sprouts, spoons of kimchee, an egg, and you're ready to go with that episode of Neighbours.
Dessert was whipped cream heavy for my taste, but the chocolate fondant was yummy.
Even yummier was this. In between a sorbet and a granita, made with in-season strawberries.
Got to run, and thank you for reading. (Well, at least I've stopped saying 'sorry'.)