Kimchee, Tang, porno posters, and awesome flavors -- we're happy to ride the wave of new Korean spots
From the spare, industrial interior sparsely dotted with tables to rice purified with binchotan, or Japanese white charcoal ($2), it's clear this no typical Asian eatery. There is — of course! — KFC ($5), although here it is lightly fried, yielding spicy chicken more akin to buffalo wings than the aforementioned boneless chicken at Aria. Bento box-like "BAP sets" ($6-10) offer meat or veggies alongside rice and banchan or panchan (mini-dishes that often accompany Korean meals that could account for the name of these plates on the menu), which rotate daily. Spinach roots and French breakfast radish crowns are brined in mustard and nori, and sesame leaves are pickled in soy, white zucchini or green mango in vinegar. Kimchi comes in multiple forms, including versions made with bok choy and kale.
Robata specials are grilled on wood skewers. There's okra and snap peas and tender chicken "oyster" cuts. The best bite of all? Bacon mochi ($2.50). The mochi is sticky, subtly savory, and gummy, satisfying on its own merit — until you reach the bacon and accompanying mustard seeds. I'd eat this fantastic bite for breakfast, dessert — basically any way at all. For bigger appetites, there's sandwiches ($8) like a Tokyo po' boy laden with fried chicken, red cabbage slaw, house mayo, and pickles.
To drink there's a bracing, cool roasted corn tea ($1), chilled and nearly creamy with fresh corn flavor. Other drink options include Tang (yes, Tang!), house barrel-aged soju, and glasses from the neighbors, like Alameda's Rock Wall Wines and beer on tap from Oakland's Linden Street Brewery. FuseBOX is only open Wednesday through Friday, 11:30am—2:30pm, but promises that its dinner menu will soon be operational. As its hours expand, I've no doubt it will become even more crowded than its three-day-a-week lunches already are. There's no place like it.
2311A Magnolia, Oakl. (510) 444-3100, www.fuseboxoakland.com
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