Naan Of Your Business

By Joe Sevier | Megan Swann

By

Joe Sevier
Megan Swann
Sesame Naan, Shiitake Hummus, Burnt Leek, Roasted Garlic, Fried Shiitakes, and Crispy Shallots
Sesame Naan, Shiitake Hummus, Burnt Leek, Roasted Garlic, Fried Shiitakes, and Crispy Shallots

What do you do when you buy a restaurant space that comes with tandoor ovens, but you aren’t planning a South Asian restaurant? If you’re Chef Brian Shin of The Snug in Pacific Heights, you teach yourself how to make naan.

A student of fine dining, Shin spent most of his professional career at such venerable establishments as Benu and In Situ in San Francisco, Alinea in Chicago, and Corton in New York City, among others. But when he and his team of partners were seeking a venue for a new collaboration, their aim was to open something more “bar-forward with casual food.”

They found that place in a closing Indian restaurant on the corner of Fillmore and Clay, situated several blocks from Divisadero Street, a strip already established with nightlife. “There wasn’t a whole lot going on in terms of bar food” in the immediate area when Shin and his team looked at the place in June 2017. The kitchen was equipped with just two gas-powered tandoor ovens and little else.

“I’d never worked with [a clay oven]” prior to cooking at The Snug, says Shin, “but I thought it was really cool.” So when they stripped the kitchen during the remodel, Shin kept one of those tandoors, and built out the remaining kitchen space with the equipment he would need to execute the rest of his menu of “Californian/American bar food.”

Trouble is, Shin didn’t know how to use that tandoor. To learn, he requested backup from “a friend of a friend” who had done time in various Indian restaurants. He taught Shin the ins-and-outs of tandoor cooking. Early experiments included tandoori skewers that ultimately didn’t stay on the menu—Shin says they weren’t practical for the volume they were doing in those early days.

One other early experiment, however, has become one of The Snug’s signature dishes—and also one of their best selling. “I knew from the beginning that I wanted to try to put naan on the menu.” After some trial and error, he did. Shin’s naan is by no means traditional—he likens the dough to brioche, owing to a good addition of butter (not ghee!) instead of the more typical yogurt. The risen dough is rolled out, fired in the tandoor, and served in a number of ways: gilded with garlic oil and sesame seeds to serve next to an earthy, umami-rich shiitake hummus; covered with everything spice to pair with chicken liver mousse or trout roe and cauliflower; or dusted with cinnamon-sugar.

The naan isn’t out of place on the menu, which reads like a heightened take on the bar food he set out to create. Instead of straight “American food” there are windows to Shin’s cultural background—he’s Korean-American, originally from Alaska. So next to the “bodega” burger and roast chicken, you’ll also spot pork belly–and–kimchi lettuce wraps, steamed buns stuffed with wagyu beef and ssamjang, and Korean wings. And then there’s his French training, which is perhaps most evident in a steak frites dish (which he sears in a cast-iron pan set on a burner plate at the base of the tandoor, and serves with Bercy butter). On the whole, the menu is a little bit bistro, a little bit Korean, and a little bit pan-Asian, told through the lens of a well-traveled cook—all of which comes together to make singularly American fare.

 

 

 

 

 

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