Contemporary Korean restaurant Barnzu is now open for “food to eat while drinking,” according to partner Nathan Choi’s translation of his restaurant’s name. “Barnzu literally means meal and drink in Korean,” says Choi, who likens the style of dining to Spanish tapas restaurants or Japanese izakayas.
The name notwithstanding, teetotalers are more than welcome at Barnzu, which is housed in a newly remodeled space at 711 Geary. There, after announcing the project last year, the team combined two former retail spaces, a flower shop and a laundromat, uncovering and exposing a century-old original brick wall in the process.
Barnzu is the combined effort of Choi and Jae Jung, who operate the popular Korean fried chicken truck Kokio Republic, and restaurateur Min Choe, who owns Tamashisoul Sushi Bar in Cow Hollow and Sushi Hon in the Mission. Choi and Jae are longtime friends who met in the Bay Area, where both their families emigrated in 2002. They joined forces with Min after meeting at a party at one of his restaurants, forming the LLC 383 Brothers, for “three guys born in 1983.”
To helm the kitchen at Barnzu they recruited chef Sam Ho, who was actually introduced to Choi by his father — Ho started attending the same local church where he’s a member. “Turned out he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and had worked at SPQR and other restaurants,” says Choi. “We met, and he showed off some recipes he had, and, it was really good.”
Ho’s dishes include fried chicken, but they don’t stop there. “I think all the Korean restaurants are pushing Korean fried chicken, but we would also like to show off pork belly,” says Choi. Theirs is crispy after three or four hours in the oven. For vegetarians, Choi highlights a clear sweet potato noodle dish topped with a trumpet mushroom steak.
This is barnzu, so there’s plenty to drink: Korean rice wines like soju and makgeolli, Korean beer, and California and French wine, too. Hours are 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and 5:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday (closed Mondays).