We’ve had a smattering of Korean joints here and there in the Mission, but really not much to speak of. The BF and I are huge Korean BBQ fans, and we usually have to go to Oakland to get that scratch itched. So we were super excited to hear that a new, at-least-Korean-ish place would be opening so near us.
Foxsister takes its name from an ancient, macabre Korean legend about a devil girl who was born of a prayer by a man whose wife only bore him sons. He begged for a daughter, even if she were a fox. The bloody tale is dreamily depicted in a mural on one of the restaurant’s walls (the pic that looks like a slightly Asian Audrey Hepburn.) Foxsister’s décor is wild and kitschy, sparkly and boisterous, and sets the scene for non-traditional, fun and mostly tasty food. There’s a DJ spinning (reggae and rocksteady tunes our first night — Jah, man!), soju cocktails and Chef Brandon Kirksey’s take on Korean drinking food.
I ordered a frozé because everyone on Yelp was raving about them (a slushee made from rosé and soju), and found it refreshing, yet boozy.
We started out with the fried chicken wings, OG style (with seaweed salt):
There are two other varieties to choose from: sweet & spicy and garlic soy. We were ecstatically happy with our choice. There is nothing not to adore about these wings, and could well be the main reason I go back again and again. Crispy as hell, super-tender inside, with a salty/sweet coating that pings all your taste buds at once. We got the basket, which was plenty for a starter, and I felt like the mythical Foxsister as we devoured them like rabid wolverines. There are “Plenty of Wings” and “A Lot of Chicken” options, too. I’d get more next time.
Next, we ordered banchan — those little plates of Korean side dishes that come with your BBQ — kimchis, fried little fishies, garlicky noodles, crispy fried potatoes, etc. — that make every bite of Korean BBQ a new adventure. Here, the banchan is limited — five plates for $9 (yes, they’re usually free at KBBQs, but this isn’t KBBQ) — and five flavors: a squid jerky-like dish, sprouts, cucumber kimchi, regular kimchi and some sautéed shrooms. While we liked the sprouts and kimchis OK, the squid thing was like eating wet, wadded-up paper towels. Why would you ever do that? We didn’t, we left it behind. And the mushrooms were insipid, while also being too sweet. Eh, three out of five. But they need to work on their banchan.
We ordered the banchan in anticipation of the BF’s next dish:
Billed as spicy pork bulgogi, known as daeji bulgogi in Korean BBQ joints, it is the BF’s favorite dish, bar none. It consists of fatty pork that’s been marinated in Korean chili pepper, Asian pear, soy and other items, and then grilled over a charcoal fire, sometimes at your table, sometimes not. The result is a spicy, caramelized, delicious dish of pork bits with little sweetish meat crunchies at the end. It’s a heavenly concoction, when done right. We were not thrilled with this one. It was a little too sweet, and I swear I detected something like Mexican chili powder in the spicing. I did like that, besides the lettuce, raw garlic and jalapeño slices to make wraps with, there was thin pickled daikon too. Don’t get me wrong — if you’ve never had KBBQ, you’ll like this dish just fine. It’s grilled spicy pork, after all.
I went for the Kimchi Hellfire Stew for my main:
Usually known as kimchi jjigae, the dish is meant to be served bubbling hot in a stone bowl, packed with kimchi, tofu and broth; this version includes pork belly. The BF dubbed it “Campbell’s tomato soup,” but I found it homey, if a little one-note. I thought it had a decent amount of heat, although certainly not “hellfiery.” It was even better the next day; I took two-thirds of it home (big portion) and added some of the BF’s sliced jalapeno and garlic to it. The pork, which was a bit tough at the table, softened up the next day, too. This is comfort food, good on a rainy day — or for a hangover.
I realized after our meal that night that it was only their third week open, so we decided to wait to go back, to give them time to get some of the new-car smell out (the food took a while to come out, for example, though the place wasn’t all that busy when we arrived).
Our second visit, more than a month later, was more successful. We asked, and found that you can order a combination of the wings, so we got the other two that we hadn’t tried yet.
The soy and garlic wings managed to retain their crispiness, but the sweet & spicy (honey and gochujang — a Korean chili paste) did not. I’m not a fan of Korean-style sweet & spicy wings anyway, as they’re always too sweet for me. These weren’t overly saccharine, but also weren’t that spicy, and neither of these came close to the OG wings of our first night. We did enjoy, however, the little cubes of pickled daikon that accompanied them.
Next, we split an order of kimchi nachos:
A bowl of what I presumed was queso (like the stuff you get at Mexican restos) blended with kimchi came out topped with jalapenos, gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) and scallions. The dipping mechanisms were pork skins and fried, sliced lotus root. Now, this is drinking food at its finest. I could eat this dish until all the cows came home, went out again, trashed the town, and came home to pass out. Our only complaint was that some portions of the pork rinds were so tough as to be inedible, but most were ethereal, crunchy beings of lightness. The lotus root was perfect with the cheese, and I’d like more of it, please. This is nothing you’d ever find on a Korean menu, of course, but who cares? What fun.
We also had some beef & pork dumplings which were pretty hearty and tasty:
And a mung bean pancake with spicy ground beef, which was just OK:
Of course, we brought most of those last two dishes home with us and the BF devoured them later, after cocktails, maintaining the spirit of bar food.
I’m dying to try the Dungeness crab noodles (hurry — while it’s still in season! –and the fried oysters with hot kewpie mayo sound intriguing. There’s pork fried rice, spicy octopus and oxtail too, and I hope the menu changes up a bit. But really, I’d love to sit at the bar and just mow down wings with some Hite beer. Or Veuve Cliquot! Because Foxsister rolls like that, too.
3161 24th St., San Francisco, CA 94110