My first visit to Nami Nami was for lunch, and while it was very good, I wasn't able to see what the kitchen could do.
I went back on a late Friday night, waiting behind a family with a child. The long narrow hallway leading to the reception area was sort of awkward as a waiting area. An angry family with small kids were storming out of the restaurant, with the father yelling: "This restaurant doesn't like kids!" This of course made the family waiting in front of us quite embarrassed, since they had a kid as well. The owner/manager, who seemed to be quite nice, later explained to us that he was trying to ask them to tone down the noise of the kids, and apparently the family didn't take it too well.
Nami Nami has a nice almost sexy flair to its decor, not as fancy as most of the date restaurants in the city, but it's certainly not as sterile as Japanese places like Kaygetsu. I don't understand why anyone would bring little kids to a restaurant like Nami Nami, but it shows how downtown Mountain View is slowly diversifying from a concentration of cheap ethnic eats to a showcase of modern high-end Asian cuisine. If you don't believe me, try Shiva (Indian) or Xanh (Vietnamese) in the same downtown.
Let me make this clear. The dishes at Nami Nami are phenomenal. In fact, the last time I was that excited by a restaurant was probably on my first visit to Delfina in the city, or maybe it was when I had to step out of Sakae in Burlingame to catch a breath from the food- and sake-induced ecstasy. It is already uncommon to see a kitchen truly excel in almost every dish on the menu, but it is indeed awe-inspiring--and yes to me it was an experience really this rare--to see a restaurant try so many innovations in an established cuisine and yet be able to come out with such polished results.
Ohitashi in most Japanese restaurants consists of tired spinach soaked in soy sauce. At Nami Nami, this $4 gem is made with chrysanthemum leaves, which give a slight spicy kick to the dish, perfect with the taste of the ocean coming from the accompanying salmon roe. Have you ever had oyster stuffed in spring rolls? This version from Nami Nami comes with a thin wrapper, and the paper holding the spring rolls in a beautiful metallic boat-like container soaks up virtually no grease from the spring rolls. Kakuni is the name given to pork belly slightly fried with batter and then cooked till the meat is tender and has absorbed the seasoning. Before visiting the restaurant I had already read a lot about the beef tongue dish, and it was indeed phenomenal. Beef tongue usually has a chewy texture, but at Nami Nami the beef tongue is cooked to such velvety texture that you can't even recognize the meat by texture--only by its characteristic taste. The generous portion of the dish is served on a large plate, with the chunks of tender meat floating on a thick sweet yellow sauce. Every single dish I had there was a winner.
I haven't tried raw fish at Nami Nami, which does have a tiny sushi bar. In any case whether you like Japanese food or not, you definitely shouldn't miss Nami Nami. I honestly don't know any other restaurant like Nami Nami in the Bay Area, certainly not one at this caliber.
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