Nan, a new Korean beer hall, recently sprung up on an unnoticeable corner at Fillmore and Geary, where eight lanes of traffic whizz by below and two lazy tributaries cross the Fillmore Street overpass. Nan’s obscurity is about to change, however when two glamor spots, Hapa Ramen and State Bird Provisions, open across the street in the old Fillmore Auditorium building. In the meantime, a lot of Korean kids are finding Nan, drawn by ice cold Korean beer and spicy, salty Korean comfort food, one of the best combos on the planet.
Not everything on the long, two sided, laminated menu does it for me, but bulgogi pa-jeon (#95, $12.95), a crusty Korean pancake layered with slices of sweetly marinated sirloin and whole scallions, is Nan’s signature dish. It comes on a heavy, round cast iron pan, fitted into a wooden tray for service, which keeps the pancake hot as everyone eats it, wedge by wedge. The rice flour and egg batter that picks up the flavors of the meat and vegetables that go into it, creates a light, tender pancake. Sweet soy sauce with more scallions spooned over the top, brings the seasoning into perfect balance.
The other house specialty, soy and garlic fried chicken (#84, $8.95/ half), also plays sweet against salty, this time in dark, juicy, crisp skinned fried chicken glazed in sweetened soy sauce. It comes with a big mound of cabbage slaw topped in thousand island dressing.
You’ll be counting the minutes until the movie at the Kabuki ends, so you can walk across the street to have these two universally lovable dishes with a big bottle of OB Korean beer ($7), served with frosty little glass mugs.
Bo-sam (#103, $14.95) is cold, marinated pork belly cut into thin slices and lined up like fallen dominoes, in between a pile of daikon slaw coated in medium hot Korean red chile sauce, and a stack of cold steamed cabbage leaves. You make rolls using the soft cabbage as a wrapper, filling it with slices of pork and a spoonful of the sesame seeded slaw. I could pretty much eat these all day too.
A firm, gelatinous kalbi hamburger steak (#98, $10.95), made of finely ground short rib, sizzles on a metal cooking platter, doused with teriyaki-like brown sauce with a few canned sliced mushrooms. A perfect sunny side up egg. and a big spoonful of shell macaroni salad, lightly coated in sweet, creamy dressing, and enlivened with threads of raw red onion, red cabbage and carrot, make this a complete comfort meal.
The big, echoing, warehouse-like space is divided into areas with either partially enclosed wood slat booths or stark, wooden benches with tables. A beer and soju bar has two flatscreen televisions silently tuned to sports. Service by young, black-clad Korean women with long black hair warm up the place considerably. Our waitress recognized us the second time we came in, which always makes customers feel good. And when we got a dish I didn’t think I ordered one night, I was brought the one I thought I did, and wasn’t charged.
Best of all, Nan stays open late, till 2 a.m. on weekends nights that start on Thursday, which makes it an important resource for sustenance after a long night out.
Nan, 1560 Fillmore (at Geary), San Francisco
Contact: 415 441- 9294
Hours: Monday through Wednesday 5 p.m. to midnight, Thursday through Sunday 5 to 2 a.m.
Price range: $4.25 to $14.95
Recommended dishes: bulgogi pajeon, soy and garlic fried chicken, bulgogi tteok-bok-ki, bo-ssam, kalbi hamburger steak
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express