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.