Tasting Table was perhaps blinded by glimmering hope of fresh seafood in Ktown that is not hwal do.
Zagat, as usual, bears zero relevance and misses all marks.
LA Times (or, should I say, Stephanie Cha) got suckered, and makes possibly the worst restaurant metaphor so far in 2013.
The truth about EMC is this: it’s the love child of PPQ (yes, the SF one), Crustacean and Seafood Village. The infantile trick here are $1 oysters and $5 draft beers during happy hour. That’s it. There is zero benefit to eating here over any meal from Seafood Village. You will leave the place smelling like you just emerged from a grease trap of a Chinese take-out. Why? Well, EMC has a Chinese cook, a Chinese management team; by god you can take the Chinese out of Alhambra (or Downtown), but you can’t take the greasy wok breath out of the Chinese.
During a typical Wednesday, you may encounter a room full of Chinese people noshing (well, not NOSHING, since this place is obviously not kosher) on $1 oysters and some $6 fish tacos. The fish tacos are actually not atrocious, since they don’t use the deplorable frozen swai/tilapia used by every Mexican fish taco joint in LA these days. Nevertheless, the calamari is an overbreaded (to the tune of typical orange chicken at a Chinese steam table operation) pile of shameful seafood that was served with thousand island, the $8 lobster slider borders an outright extortion, and $8 for a plate of garlic noodles seems… What’s the word? A bit.. Crustacean?
Still, everybody and his mother/brother/toddler was gobbling this up effrontery. Why? “It’s so cheap!”. Or, as a Korean food writer poignantly countered: “It’s not cheap, it’s affordable seafood for Ktown”. And the crowd isn’t stupid. By 8:30 P.M. the first turn from happy hour is gone, leaving only Wokano/Le Ka’s friends and family intact in the middle of the dining room. At probably more than $5/square feet, EMC is going to have to turn more tables, because there is no way for them to lower the prices to less than $1 per oyster, and there’s no way for them to survive based on the demerits of the food.
The lemongrass steamed mussels tasted like a big plate of frozen shame flown in from Asia. Some mussels have atrophied, some were chock full of sand. At $12, plump and dirty mussels are the acceptable norm in SGV. At $18, everybody expects more from steamed mussels. The $1 oysters taste like a dollar’s worth. Everyone should pony up $0.60 per oyster more and go for the fabulousness that is El Coraloense’s mariscos specialties. If the starters basically sucked all around, and the most popular shell fish dish is no matter, what’s there left to be had at EMC?
The fried garlic tossed clams were the high light of the evening. They were spot on because they were cooked in a familiar Chiu Chow/Cantonese fashion: tons of sliced scallions, sliced jalapenos, and a sufficient amount of fried garlic bits. It’s like Seafood Village’s garlic shrimp applied to clams, served in Koreatown. The remainder of the scallion/jalapeno/fried garlic bits is perfect when applied to the utterly boring and useless garlic noodles shown below. I prefer this self-serve smorgasbord noodles dish to any dan dan mian in the San Gabriel Valley. It is thoroughly Chinese, thoroughly pungent, thoroughly vegetarian, thoroughly greasy, and not at all “Son of a Gun”, nor Koreatown. This is off the menu and a creation of a non-Ktown dweller.
Le Ka is amazing because it’s a beautiful disaster propped up by French chefs. EMC is lucky it’s located in Koreatown where the aborigines still think a couple of clams cooked directly on fire is worth a letter back home to mom. Give credit where credit is due though: it’s always been my opinion American “seafood” houses are ridiculously priced with not enough flavor profile and not enough bones left on the tableclothes. A dream Westside concept would be taking the least scary of shellfish dishes from Newport Seafood, cobbling together some Latino cooks and oyster shuckers, and throwing all that into a Santa Monica restaurant with a high design. EMC has done (mostly) just that and LA’s better for it. Me? I’ll take my crab legs from El Sarape, thank you very much.
EMC Seafood and Raw Bar
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