actually pretty awesome

Actually Pretty Awesome: Beef Tongue at Namu Gaji

A glorious take on tongue.

A glorious take on tongue.Photo: Mohammad Gorjestani

We've only had the opportunity to dine once at Namu Gaji since it opened earlier this month, but given the location (18th and Dolores) and the established reputation of Namu, we were already pretty sure it would be a hit. We were also pretty sure we were going to like a new dish that had been described in some of the preview copy from the team — a simple preparation of braised and slow-grilled beef tongue in a Japanese style — but oh man did we underestimate how ridiculously good this shit is.

The tongue is first brined overnight in a traditional Japanese brining liquid with herbs, then it's slow-braised in the brine, then it's pickled using a soy-based pickling liquid, and finally it's cubed and grilled over low heat to develop a crispy char around the edges. The whole process takes seven days, and the resulting flavor is complex, lightly tangy and beefy, somehow ancient in its depth and strangeness, and provides an angle on beef's richness that feels entirely new. Also, it's stupidly tender. It satisfies every cliché of tenderness — it melts, it disintegrates, you barely need to chew — and yet it isn't mushy or stringy in the slightest. (Okay, you might get one edge-hunk that requires a tiny effort from the jaw muscles.) It's like everything you ever wanted your beef bourguignon to be, but wasn't. The care and effort put into the preparation are evident, and thus this beef tongue transcends the texture and flavor of most any other similar-looking cube of beef you'll ever try.

It's now being served with charred spring onions and seasonal greens, but the accompaniments will change with season.

Basically, it's a don't-ever-bother-trying-this-at-home dish, but any good restaurant needs a few of those to keep us coming back.

Earlier on Actually Pretty Awesome:
Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken at Brasa
Green Garlic Bread at State Bird Provisions
A Dinner of Small Plates and the Duck Confit Salad at Frances
Duck Fat Chex Mix at Truck Stop Café
The Lamb Tongue Salad at Txoko
The Branzino at AQ
Dinner at Local Mission Eatery
Suckling Pig Sandwich at Sweet Woodruff
Crudités at Saison
The Roasted Broccoli Sandwich at Split Pea Seduction
George Mendes’s Partridge in a Pear Tree
The Buffalo Burger at Double Decker
A Preview of Dishes at Haven
Alicia's Tamales Los Mayas
The Cocktails at Outerlands
The Meatball Gigante and the Honey Pie at Tony’s Pizza
Three New Gins from St. George Spirits
The Date Night at Sneaky's BBQ
Crab and Dumplings at Pican
The Fried-Chicken Sliders at The Lookout
The Tripe and the Pickles at Bar Tartine
Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Doughnuts at Beast & the Hare

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