A few weeks ago, between beautiful buttery bites at Bar Tartine (darnit, I was hoping the alliteration can go longer) and the much-lauded, little-delivered pizza at F+W, we stopped in for a sampling at Namu after being prodded by the fine ladies of Boobs4Food.
Aside: There’s nothing but love here at SinoSoul for Boobs4food: sexy cosmopolitan Taiwanese mamas keen on globetrotting, volunteerism, foodism, baking, all with a bit a Cali glam thrown in. The entire crew is just a blastedly good time.
Namu birthed itself nearly the same time as Momofuku Saam and made a small name dishing out Korean fusion food before the entire Kogi scene erupted. They were known for their Korean fried chicken and hence they were within my scope. Once upon a time, I threw together a Korean Fried Crack list on Yelp that comprised of 6 First to Reviews. Yessir, I was serious about the task of chasing frie dspicy chicken wings – yang nyeom tung dalk. In fact, back in February ’07, shortly after the New York Times piece on KFC was published, I chased said birds all the way to San Francisco, from Chicago:
The first encounter with these fiery creatures was at Cocobang, a restaurant still in existence in the Tenderloin(?) section of SF. This version of K-chicken is more properly known as bul-dalk – fire bird, no relation to the crappy American car. We were looking for fried spicy goodness in Feb of 07, but instead found stir fried, tough poultry drenched in chili pepper paste that exceeded anything I was familiar with in Korean cuisine up to that time.
Since then, Chicken Day, with its heavily medicinal flavors, light airy skin with trimmed fat, has become our defaction KFC in Ktown. Yes, it has detractors, but I will defend the funky flavor with impunity.
Then you have the complete disaster at Namu. WTFBBQ? The server/college friend/restaurant partner/chef’s drinking buddy mentioned this is Namu’s version of fried chicken. It’s not Korean, it’s not Southern, it’s not anything. He’s 33% completely correct: this isn’t anything close to edible. Soggy skin? Present. Double fried? No. Spicy? No. Spices? No. Juicy white meat? AWOL. Flavorful dark meat? MIA. The ultra ghetto dis-franchised Popeyes Chicken, renamed Popeyes 2000, around the corner from my residence? The one carrying the $2 for 2 pieces leg & thigh special? Will KILL Namu’s fried chicken as long as I pour on some sweetened gochujang. I kid you not. And to all you disenchanted, misled, heavily monetized Korean Google kiddies in the Bay Area: I will gladly offer such Popeyes 2000 chicken to you, for free, if you leave a comment prior to hitting LA.
Think the meal will perk up after the criminal chicken? No sir, just order the ramen. House made noodles and “farmers market” means nothing here. This is the worst bowl of self-proclaimed “ramen” ever. I ain’t no Go Ramen, but this $12 bowl of wheaty waste was inedible. The noodles were cooked down to mush, the broth tasted like fat skimmed from a pot of dish washing water. For the price of 2 bowls of Taiwanese beef noodle soup after tax/tip, PLEASE stop treating this like a bowl of damned naeng myun and include a few more pieces of meat. Thankfully, Namu only makes 6 bowls of this atrocity a day.
Inspiration for this post? While browsing the upcoming Foodbuzz Festival’s dining program, I noticed food bloggers will be forced to eat a complete dinner directed by the chef of Namu, after a luncheon presented by Bertolli (insert groan). Enjoy that folks, at least it’s free.
PS. What did I find? A receipt that says.. o well: KFC
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