Stimulate your senses at LA’s latest seafood restaurant—this time, we're in Koreatown—with a sensory-overload dinner theatre: The kitchen sautées in the firing wok, skilled hands furiously shuck bivalves, barmen shake up cocktails, speakers blare 'Top 40' indie rock and dual flat screens show the game and the latest Bond film. Groups happily dig into plates to share—try the fried catfish filets ($8) that's lightly battered and fried and well-seasoned for a crispy bite that's slightly salty, tangy, spicy and completely addictive—and bivalves from the a raw bar. There's also an Asian-inspired array of crudo from salmon carpaccio with ponzu sauce and fish roe to—gasp—ankimo aka monkfish liver. Perhaps the mish-mash menu should have been an indicator to the less-than-perfect meal about to unfold.
The obligatory lobster roll ($8 for mini, $16 for regular) was served Connecticut-style (i.e. with drawn butter, served on the side here) with chewy, overcooked meat that was overly dressed with tarragon on a soggy toasted brioche bun. The uni pasta ($18) was a sloppy pile of too-soft noodles mixed with a heavy hand of cream. Steamed clams ($15) and congee ($12-$16) showed promise with an unusual twist of Eastern inflection—a scan of the room with families and groups of friends confirmed we were in Koreatown, after all—taro noodles and abalone for the clams, and the option to flavor with uni, clam or abalone for the rice porridge. Both, however, failed to deliver with sloppy cooking and unrefined flavors and slight of hand, resulting in a watered-down bowl with sub-par shellfish.
If, however, you and your dining mates don't mind the occasional wait (it's no reservations for parties less than six), service served with a smile and a shout (yes, it's very loud) and a group-friendly option that's a change from the usual Koreatown spots (menu hits or misses aside) then take a seat and enjoy the show.
What to eat: Start with oysters on the half shell—get 'em for $1 a piece at happy hour (daily 4-7pm)—and continue with finger foods to share like fried catfish and crispy garlic Brussels sprouts.
What to drink: Sure, there are champagne and barrel-aged cocktails and an old and new world selection of wine (funny enough for a seafood restaurant, heavy on Napa Cabs by the bottle). But what pairs best with seafood and a rowdy dinner crowd? We're sticking with $6 Sapporo.
Where to sit: Groups can spread out along communal hightop tables, while couples should opt for a spot in front of the raw bar for full action view of the live—pun intended—action. Plus, it'll be quiet enough, so you won't have to scream over the din of the dining room.