e3rd Korean fusion steakhouse (long)
Last night drove over to a desolate strip of the downtown loft district to check out the new steakhouse by the owner of Zip Fusion next door. The concept is of steaks in Korean bbq marinade. When I told my husband (who's Korean American) about it, he said, "Of course. What took them so long?"
Prices are pretty low for their basic steaks ($23), I think because they use tougher cuts that they soften up with the marinade. There's also filet mignon and prime ribeye for $29. I had the "rib steak" and my friend had the braised "imperial short ribs" ($23). Each entree comes with two sides. We also got their "Alba-cado" to start -- apparently a signature item at Zip Fusion.
The albacado reminded me of an article I read recently about how Chinese-American food (as in the mythically Hunanese General Tso's chicken) evolved. Apparently we Americans have quite a sweet tooth, and so a lot of savory dishes got sugared up for us. At the time I thought that was weird, because pizza isn't sweet... but then here comes this strange sculpture of sliced avocado in the form of an apple, drizzled in unagi sauce and topped with... a maraschino cherry. Inside is a pile of chopped seared albacore tuna. The tuna was mushy and textureless; the avocado was beautifully ripe, but its natural subtle flavor was buried by the sauce.
Our main dishes, though, were really good. I was a little perplexed since our server had asked how I wanted my steak cooked, and I had said rare. Not only was my steak not rare, it seemingly wasn't even cooked in a way that it could conceivably have been rare. This is not exactly criticism, as it was fork-tender and delicious. But something that is fork-tender has been cooked for a pretty long time. In other words, it's like your server at Langer's asking if you want your pastrami medium-rare or well-done. That's just not in the picture! Supposedly the steak is "fired," the menu says, which I imagine means grilled, but... well, I have no idea how it got the way it was, but it was good. Enough said.
My friend loved her short ribs, which I didn't try; I imagined they were like a version of kalbi jjim, or stewed kalbi, but it didn't have as much sauce as that usually does.
Sides were okay - green beans not overcooked, button mushrooms kind of stewed. Another friend who'd tried this place earlier (and steered me away from the kimchi burger) had called the kimchi mashed potatoes bland, but I found them distinctly sourish - not exactly an improvement on the standard. My friend really liked her onion rings, though.
They're still in soft opening mode (grand opening is March 1), so there was only wine and soju cocktails. The wines we got by the glass weren't very good, and/or didn't go with the food at all. But I doubt they're expecting many oenophiles... though they're clearly expecting a lot of some kind of people. The place is cavernous, with a good-sized bar and a few low tables for lounging action. The walls are dark red, the lighting moody.
Overall, I'd say there are definitely some pitfalls on the menu, but I'd certainly go back for some Korean-style steak frites. It was also nice to have somewhere to go for dinner downtown on a Monday, when most of the places in Little Tokyo are closed. e3rd is open every day.
Oh, and service was really good, friendly and accomodating. We had about five servers at various points in the evening. There was a mixup - they gave me mushrooms instead of green beans - and they quickly brought out the extra side. Also happily took my coupon (can't remember what publication I got it from! only valid through Feb 28 tho) for one free entree with purchase.
I had such high hopes for this place because I can walk two blocks and I'm there. Unfortunately, the two times I gave them a try I was disappointed. The service was fair---Zip is not a good example of service either by the way---and the meat was so over marinated, you couldn’t taste it. I had the filet, and I'm pretty sure it started out as a good piece of meat that died a slow death in the marinade. I liked the kimchi-mashed potatoes though. My friend had the rib steak, which he thought was going to be a rib eye, but turned out to be on the bone ribs. He didn't like them. They also asked him how he wanted them cooked, and clearly it is not a rare or medium type dish? Odd. I think I've given up. Maybe time will improve it, or enough people will complain about not being able to taste their steak.
I am curious if the service and the food especially has improved since it opened. As a downtown resident I too really really wanted to like this place but was gravely disappointed. I agree that it might be better suited as a lounge instead of restaurant because I just didn't get the food and flavor combinations at all - am I missing something?!
Stuff I tried:
Appetizers: sea scallop and bacon asparagus. Thought both apps were decent and a good start to the meal.
Pear and soy marinated rib steak: Mushy mess. The acid from the pear broke down a perfectly good piece of meat. Or was it, that it needed such tenderizing??
Fish Entree: can't remember what kind of fish it was but remembered it had good flavor. However, there were LOTS of bones. Which isn't usually a problem for me except that there were greens and kimchi and sauce piled all over the fish so that trying to navigate around the plate while avoiding the bones became a real problem and I eventually gave up trying to eat it.
Sides: kimchi mashed potatoes: tasted terrible - didn't get it at all and I love kimchi.
I went there for dinner a week ago. I would say service was very good...but maybe that's because there was like 3 waiters for every customer. I would say the sides tasted better than the meat. I like the green beans and the fries. I also liked the kimchi mashed potatoes. I got the spare ribs and my girlfriend ordered the chicken. My ribs were luke warm in temperature...almost like it was sitting out for a while. I like the decor and ambience...but I don't know. I didn't not like it but I also wouldn't be jumping at going back again anytime soon...maybe it's better as a lounge than a restaurant.
Went there for lunch last week, and although lunch service just started recently, the service was atrocious. Our entrees were brought out only a few minutes after our appetizer arrived. Then, once finished with our lunches, we had to call over someone to take our plates after they sat for 15 minutes (even though they were clearing tables on either side of us). Then, ordered espresso along with dessert, and waiter delivered and left without even giving us any sugar or spoons. Had to flag down a busboy after several minutes to get some. Also, no one ever so much as checked on us during our entire lunch nor filled our water glasses. This is a shame, because the food was good. I had the rib, and it was tasty, although I was disappointed by the kimchi mashed potatoes. Good try on something different, unfortunately it just didn't work. May give the place a second chance since the food was good, but will definitely wait for a couple of months until they get all their kinks worked out.
That's a shame about the kimchi-mashed potatoes; one of my favorite things when I was a kid was to put a piece of kimchi on a potato chip (Pringles work best). I'm pretty sure I've seen that sort of thing on other menus as well. It's strange that it didn't work out that well...