I'd gotten a couple of recommendations for this place, but really hadn't given it much thought. The menu seemed, well bulgogi sliders and kalbi tacos, it just smacked of a fad-following restaurant. Heck, I really never bought into the food truck thing (has anyone seen Roy Choi actually in one of his trucks recently?)....I mean, I love loncheras and all, but most of them seemed more hype than hope. So I really didn't get too excited when a couple of places opened up selling kalbi tacos and such. Still, after reading FOY (Friend of Yoso) and super food blogger Kirbie's post on fuze (yep, that's how they spell it....little 'f'), I thought why not? Heck, I'd even make it a twosome and do a second part on the other place that folks had mentioned to me......"Jiggle Jiggle". After all, I can claim to have eaten kalbi tacos back in the late 90's....of course, it was Alan Wong making those tacos......
If I recall, this place used to be Mr Wasabi, right?
The interior is still rather spartan.
There was no one around when I first visited and the young man was very nice. In fact, on both visits I thought the service was decent and the guys quite friendly. The menu seems an amalgamation of straight ahead dishes Kalbi Jjim, Pajun, and Kimchi Jjigae. Combined with some fusion-ny dishes, Fuze Pajun, Bulgogi Philly Cheesesteak, Dduk Bok ki?
I decided to start things out with the "Fuze Pajun"($7.95), supposedly a riff on the traditional Korean savory pancake.
Overall, a mixed bag. The mayo, katsuobushi(bonito flakes), and sauce made this seem more like okonomiyaki, which suites me fine, since okonomi pretty much means "as you like it". The pancake itself could have been browned a bit more, it was pretty gummy. I believe there were three shrimp in the whole thing....but in a really gutsy move, this was a pretty sneaky pajun/okonomiyaki. There were strips of roasted jalapeno in it, giving it a bit of a sneaky heat....you never knew what you'd be getting in your next bite.
I also ordered the Kalbi Tacos ($7.95).
So, of course the first thing I did was fish out the kalbi to see how it tasted. It actually had some flavor....what we in Hawaii call "local kalbi", more sweet and closer to teriyaki than kalbi. Of course at this price point it was "LA Kalbi", cross cut beef ribs and on the tough side.
Didn't care much for the tortillas which were I believe were white corn. They had been either grilled and griddled, but with no fat attaining a rather dried cardboard like texture. The kochujong based aioli was mild, but did no harm, ditto the tasteless and toothpaste textured guacamole.
The fact of the matter was that I could still taste the kalbi, even though there didn't seem to be much of it present.
The cabbage provided what I thought to be a decent counter-point.
The meal turned out to be decent....enough so, that I decided to return, just to see.....
On this visit I went with the dish that Kirbie enjoyed the most, the Bulgogi Sliders ($9.95). Just a word of warning; if you're expecting a meat-fest, this ain't it. The sliders are two (or perhaps even one for some of you out there) bite deals. The amount of fries dwarfs them......
But I'll tell you what, the beef is very tender......still tending to the sweeter side, but very tasty. The scallions add a very mild pungency, the aioli, well, I could just do with a good mayo. The rolls are typical store bought deals and ended up getting kinda soggy.
If I were to have this again (and I very well may), I'd tell them to pass on the crumbled dry herbs...I believe it's thyme, which just adds to much to the flavor of some perfectly decent natural fries. As for the ten buck price tag....I'll let you decide on that one.
Speaking of price tag, I also could not resist ordering the Chicken Wings ($8.95), the sweet and spicy version.
Well, let's just say, Kyochon this ain't...though at over a buck a wing (8), they sure are charging that way! Heck, this ain't even the napalm like wings from BBQ Chicken. Compared to those two....this would be, well, almost bland. The batter was also a bit less crunchy than I would have desired. It seemed dipped into sweet chili sauce with a bit too much sesame oil for my taste.
Overall, my impression of fuze is a fairly positive one. I didn't expect haute, or even great food, but a couple of the items were fairly good.
The kalbi may be beat suited for tacos because it is on the tougher side, though I may want to just have the bulgogi straight up. The young men were quite nice.....but of course my meals were during slow periods, but they seemed like pleasant guys.
So fusion or confusion? One thing I'm pretty sure of, the person heading up the kitchen can cook, though I'm thinking some of the dishes were kind of "just thought up". The price point for lunch may be high, but if you're having drinks and pub grub this might do the trick.
fuze restaurant and lounge
9379 Mira Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92126
Monday - Friday: 11am - 11pm
Sat - Sunday: 11am - midnight
You can also check out Mary's post here.
Stay tuned for part 2.....do I giggle giggle at Jiggle Jiggle!