I have yet to try the Korean Taco from Kogi BBQ, the food truck that seemingly started an explosion of food trucks and the originator that seemingly spawned a bunch of copycats in the Bay Area, including Mogo BBQ and BBQ Kalbi. I have tried the Korean taco from Mogo BBQ, BBQ Kalbi and Seoul on Wheels which are okay for the most part. I think I probably like Mogo BBQ the best out of the three, but none of them are hugely ground-shaking in terms of taste.
Through some foodie newsletter, I heard about Namu and specifically their take on the Korean taco for quite some time now. Its Inner Richmond location and somewhat pricey menu have led to much procrastination in terms of making a visit. Therefore, I was obviously more than a little excited to hear they set up a small stand at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on Thursdays and Saturdays. Sadly, it still took a couple months, because even though I’m passing the Ferry Building almost every Saturday, I am usually running (with no cash in hand) and can only stop for the free fruit samples.
Nevertheless, I finally gave it a try and I have to say that those Namu Tacos are absolutely delicious. I’d argue that they are the most unique interpretation of a Korean taco that I’ve tasted. Instead of the typical flour or corn tortilla wrap, they use seasoned seaweed and fill it with a little seasoned rice topped with chopped Kalbi meat, tomatoes. green onions and a kim chee-like remoulade. I think this take on the Korean taco is much more refined compare to every other one I’ve had. The taste is distinctly Asian… and Korean, even, but instead of bluntly chopped leaves of kim chee and lettuce mixed in the taco, the kim chee salsa evenly spreads through each bite of the taco. The rice is moist and flavorful and adds just enough starch to balance the meat and vegetables without making you feel like it’s pure filler. At $5 for 2 tacos, it is on par with other food trucks. Considering how tasty it is, I might argue that 2 isn’t enough, but in reality it’s a nice starter and leaves some room to try the other things on the menu.
And try other things we did. The Gamja Fries looked really interesting from the menu description. They are hand cut potatoes with kim chee relish, gochujang, kewpie mayo, teriyaki flavored short ribs and green onions. It is like an Asian-style equivalent of chili cheese fries… and after one bite, I imagine it would send your cholesterol through the roof the same way chili cheese fries would. The potatoes were literally fried to a crisp which were kind of interesting, but then kind of too much at the same time. It tasted more oily than starchy, but the mix of kewpie and gojchujang, and kim chee relish sauce really went well with the fries. Even though the greasiness started to get to me, I couldn’t stop eating them because it tasted so good.
I’ve been on a kick for kim chee fried rice lately, ordering it every time I see it on the menu…. so unable to avoid my craving, I ended up ordering the Kim Chee Fried Rice here as well. I have to say that it was rather bland tasting and definitely the least interesting of the three things we ordered. It didn’t have the characteristic kick from the kim chee that one would expect so without that, it kind of just tasted like mushy red rice. Interestingly enough, after mixing the Gamja Fries with the Kim Chee Fried Rice, both dishes tasted even better. I think the crispiness of the fries and teriyaki-flavored meat added some crunch and much needed seasoning, respectively. So the dish was ultimately saved.
Overall, I was very pleased with the food from the Namu stand. The food is tasty and very creative. It is reasonably priced considering what the rest of the food stands at the Farmer’s market charge. It definitely encouraged me to go check out the actual restaurant. Unfortunately, considering the growing list of restaurants that I have to conquer, I may have to de-prioritize it and enjoy the tasty treats at the Saturday Farmers Market, at least for now.
Namu at the Farmer’s Market
Behind the Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA
PAFO Ratings for Namu at the Farmer’s Market:
Price 2 stars
Ambiance 2 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3½ stars