Los Angeles-based chef Chris Oh has made his way North to the Inner Sunset, bringing his style of modern Korean cuisine to a small, sleek all-day restaurant called Um.ma. It’s now open in the bustling stretch of 9th Ave. that is already home to neighborhood favorites like Nopalito and Pacific Catch, and will soon include a new Tartine cafe.
“In LA the Korean community is so vast and enormous,” says Oh. “The population but also food and culture. I feel like there are a lot of other influences here, like Chinese and Japanese; I want to put the pedal to the metal on Korean food in the city.”
Though Oh has spent the last decade in Los Angeles, he grew up in San Francisco’s neighborhoods, from the Inner Sunset to Dogpatch. Opening a restaurant here was always a goal, he says, bringing things full circle after years cooking in LA, Hawaii and Las Vegas — his businesses include Chingu Hawaii, Seoul Sausage Co and Kpop Foods. He’s also hoping to infuse San Francisco’s Korean food scene with some new energy.
“I wanted to add some Los Angeles K-Town vibes,” says Oh. “The back room is edgy and cool and then there’s the big back patio — which you never see in LA — where we can do Korean barbecue and buckets of soju and beer. It’s Mom’s house in the front and your favorite Korean uncle’s barbecue out in the back.”
Um.ma, which translates to “mom” in Korean, is an homage to home cooking, and to moms everywhere, says Oh. A photo gallery of moms adorns the wall, featuring Ali Wong, Marge Simpson, and other notable maternal figures.
At dinner, the menu includes standards like kimchi rice, Korean fried chicken, bibimbap, and seafood pancakes to start, plus soups like soon dubu and mandoo guk. Charcoal grilled Korean barbecue options like prime cuts of bulgogi and kalbi are served to the table as completed dishes in the dining room. For DIY fans, however, there’ll be the option add the option of tableside grilling on the back patio in the next few weeks. (Don’t worry there’ll be heaters, in addition to the aforementioned soju, to keep Karl the Fog at bay.)
During the day, there’ll be lunch sets, like a choice of barbecue with rice and banchan served on wooden trays. On weekend days food will be served all day, with coffee from with LA’s Lamill Coffee and lattes infused with sweet potato and banana milk.
It’s open now from 11 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and 5 p.m.- 10 p.m. for dinner, with food all day on the weekends. (Stay tuned as days may change.)