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Restaurants & Bars 5

zip. zero. zilch. for ZIP FUSION in west l.a.

the delicious life | Jun 3, 200507:36 PM

zip fusion recently opened on sawtelle. i was none to impressed with the downtown original, but still tried the new one. my experience are my thoughts on the food alone (and sorry it's so long):
We started with the KIM-CHI TOFU, which is a Korean cafe food.

Zip Fusion’s Kim-chi Tofu is glistening slices of creamy tofu fanned across a black rectangular plate, sprinkled with black sesame seeds. A small pile of sauteed kimchee as also sprinkled with sesame seeds. In the dim light, the dish was beautifully presented, but it made me nervous. Kimchee dooboo is bar food, and dressing it up is like putting lipstick on a pig. Or a Buffalo wing.

The KIM-CHI was first. As beautifully as it was presented, the kimchee tasted...terrible. It was too sweet. Certainly as a cook, I know you add a hint of sweetness to spicy things to accentuate the heat, but Zip Fusion added so much sugar that it was no longer spicy. In fact, they had added so much sugar to the saute pan, the kimchee was sticky. Like a dessert kimchee compote. I didn’t like it at all.

At least the TOFU on the plate is untouched – served as raw slices and eaten together with the kimchee. There was no way I was going to taint the tofu with that sickeningly sweet kimchee, so I tried to take a slice plain. Unsuccessful. Zip Fusion uses soft tofu with their kimchee dooboo instead of regular or even firm tofu. That’s a big no-no, since you can’t use chhopsticks to pick up soft tofu – it slips and breaks apart right there on the plate. We didn’t have spoons, so I had to do some crazy ninja maneuvering of my chopsticks to get a miniscule mass of tofu in my mouth to cleanse my palate of the putrid kimchee taste. Service aside, it wasn’t starting off so well for Zip Fusion.

My fallback spicy food, kimchee, had left me disappointed. I needed spice, so we ordered the SPICY CALAMRI, which Zip Fusion demands, “Must try!” I had been commanded to sit when I first got there, so I guess I’d order the calamari, too. It came out in the same long rectangular dish, also sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Again, it made me nervous, because basically, spicy calamari is Korean oh-jing-uh bokkeum, a tasty tangle of squid, vegetables, and ever so sweetened super spicy ggoh-choo-jahng sauce. Zip Fusion’s looked like a bloody mess of sliced condoms. Even the baby squid heads looke like...well, you get the picture.

I ate one. Actually, I didn’t eat it. I tasted it, and forced myself to swallow, but I can’t say I “ate” anything, because it was nauseating. I had gotten over the condom conundrum but the wicked little things did nothing to redeem themselves with their actual taste. Sometimes rubbery, sometimes undercooked, completely inconsistent squid, not made better hidden in a sauce, but made worse with that same sickeningly saccharin sweet syrup on the kimchee. Despicable.

Next up was the DRESSED RED. Strange name, but at least they didn’t call it Best Dressed, because this one wasn’t even pretty. I had hope. Perhaps the converse of “If it’s beautiful it tastes like doodoo” would be true for Zip. The uglier looking, the better tasting. Besides, how could they possible destroy a fresh tomato stuffed with spicy tuna? I’ll tell you how. It was a bad tomato. Either that, or they don’t now how to pick and prepare tomatoes. The thin tomato skin was dry and peeling off the tomato, which they should have completely removed, or at least not cooked it all the way to tough. We removed the tomato lid that protected the inside from the miserable cream sauce, that was, yes, too sweet. Does the cook not now the difference between a teaspoon of sugar and...a ladle!??!

The SPICY TUNA inside was almost laughable. It wasn’t spicy, and it wasn’t even identifiable as tuna. To be quite honest, because it was overcooked, it tasted like canned tuna. Or cat food. It might have been mixed with mayo, but my tastebuds didn’t have it in them to even try to figure it out. So far, Zip Fusion was zero for three.

Well, I guess I didn’t get it into my head that Zip’s interpretation of “spicy” is slightly off. We orderd the ZIP SPICY CHICKEN TENDERS, marinated in garlic, deep fried, and served with a spicy sauce. Or so they say. There was nary a hint of garlic nor spice, the batter was doughy and way too thick and chewy for the size of the chicken pieces, and the frying temperature of the oil must have been set too low, since the coating was greasy. I wanted to brush my teeth after tasting the sauce to save them from decay. It tasted like a Krispy Kreme version of Panda Express’s Orange Chicken. At least I’ll give it to them that the chicken was tender. And the fried leeks or whatever were crispy. They could have been toothpicks, but at least they weren’t doused with sugar syrup.

I couldn’t take it anymore. Something, anything that was salty or spicy. And we ordered the BACON WRAPPED ASPARAGUS. Anything wrapped with bacon is going to taste good. I should watch what I say because I used to say that anything deep-fried will taste great and looked what happened to the chicken. So, anything deep fried or wrapped in bacon tastes good, unless it’s brushed with sugar syrup. Zip Fusion brushed the asparagus with that sauce. It was too much.

Unless we had just gotten really unlucky and somehow ordered every dish that just so happens to have the same sauce, the food all tasted the same. Some of it was bad, and some of it was ugly, all of it as way too sweet. Someone might say “you didn’t order the right things.” No, not-right things shouldn’t be on the menu in the first place. I don’t know if I can stick to my rule of giving everyone a second chance for Zip Fusion. In fact, I don’t think I have to since, I already gave them their first chance downtown.

We skipped dessert. I would have been absolutely livid if the desserts were salty.


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