It must have been Pho Challenge night at Pho Garden, because while we waited to be seated, there were 2 big tables of twenty-something Asian kids who were sadly losing a battle with these ginormous bowls of Pho. Sadly, this left the wait staff utterly paralyzed, because we were left waiting for over 20 minutes and no one should ever wait that long to eat at a Pho restaurant. As a result of this failed attempt to eat at Pho Garden, we ended up stumbling next door to Kappo Nami Nami. This turned out to be a rather fortuitous turn of events, because it led us to discover a nice little gem, which is rare on Castro.
I’ve always been a fan of Japanese izakaya much the same way that I’m a fan of Spanish tapas and Chinese dim sum. I like the variety of small plates and being able to try a little bit of everything. So I was excited to try everything once I perused the Kappo Nami Nami menu, but as usual, I needed to be put in check and so we only order a few dishes.
We started off with the Tuna Tartare which was served with some fried taro chips. The tuna was diced, mixed with avocado and topped with a mound of roe. Tuna is generally kind of bland, so I usually like more intricate preparations like a spicy tuna roll or tartare because there is more flavor in there. This didn’t fail. I liked how the creaminess of the avocado blended with the tuna, and the taro chip gave the right crunch to complete the dish. It was good.
For the main small plates, we ordered the mushroom and lobster gratin and black cod with miso. The mushroom and lobster gratin was essentially a mix of wild mushrooms and pieces of lobster in a creamy cheese sauce of some sort. It looked like there was a layer of cheese baked on top, but the dish itself didn’t have the heavy cheesy flavor. In fact, it was almost bordering on bland if it weren’t for the subtle flavors from the mushrooms and lobster that added to the gratin. In spite of being a rich and heavy-looking dish, it actually tasted relatively light. I really liked that aspect of the dish, but admittedly, I’ve probably had better versions of this dish elsewhere. Nevertheless, it was still a pretty good dish that I would consider ordering again.
The black cod with miso aka misoyaki was well-done, but then I’ve rarely ever had a bad version of this dish. By the very nature of black cod, you can expect to enjoy a fatty yet tender piece of white fish, and for whatever reason, the miso base always serves as a light yet flavorful marinade. It’s a little bit hard to describe, because this misoyaki tasted just as similar and tasty as all the other misoyakis that I have had. So even though it was very delicious, I really don’t have much to say about it.
Overall, I was pretty happy with the taste and quality of the food. The flavors were clean and everything was well-presented. The portions were a good size for izakaya, but I think the prices were a little high for what you get, ~$10 per plate. The restaurant itself is typically simple and understated as you would expect from a Japanese restaurant. The dimly lit restaurant makes for a nice and intimate place for a great meal and some good conversation. All in all, I enjoyed the restaurant, and I would definitely go back again. Only thing is that the next time would be more of a special occasion than just a happenstance evening on the town.
Kappo Nami Nami
240 Castro St
Mountain View, CA 94041
PAFO Ratings for Kappo Nami Nami:
Price 3 ½ stars
Ambiance 3 ½ stars
Food 3 ½ stars
Overall rating 3 ½ stars