We told you last year about Namu's designs on opening an izakaya next to Dolores Park, at a former retail space at the corner of 18th and Dolores. Well, now that project, Namu Gaji (499 Dolores Street), is finally on deck for a late 2011 opening, with the liquor license app going in this week from brothers Dennis, Daniel, and David Lee. Chef Dennis Lee earlier promised a "modern San Francisco izakaya," with all kinds of grilled chicken parts, fish bellies, fin meat, as well some more Korean-influenced stuff from the Namu playbook. But now, they're going to have some direct competition down the street from the more traditional Izakaya Yuzuki, at the other end of the same block at 18th and Guerrero.
Did first time restaurateur Yuko Hayashi, who hired as her chef Ame alum Takashi Saito, know about Namu's project before she staked her claim on the kinda cursed spot formerly known as Ebb & Flow? Likely not, given that she told the Scoop that one of her reasons for picking the space was that "there's no other Japanese restaurant in [the area]." Izakaya Yuzuki will have the first-to-market advantage over Namu Gaji if they make it open for their planned October debut. But Namu Gaji has a bit more name recognition and an established chef behind it who's out there slinging okonomiyaki at street food fests and other events.
Also, Hayashi says she wants to do something "very traditional," in an older vein even than izakayas in modern Japan.
Namu Gaji, meanwhile, will set itself apart with a takeout window, and they hope to serve until 11 p.m. or later, depending on how the permits work out. And Lee told Tablehopper last year, "I will also be making fermented chili paste and miso using strains of bacteria from my mom’s village in Korea." So there's that.