Thursday, September 12, 2013

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar (Los Angeles, CA)

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar
3500 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA 90020
Thu 09/12/2013, 07:45p-10:55p

The latest sensation to hit K-Town follows in the footsteps of the numerous seafood-centric eateries that have debuted in recent times (I'm looking at you Littlefork, Fishing with Dynamite, Connie & Ted's, Salt Air, and the new Water Grill). Yes, EMC takes over the site of the old Maitreya in the City Center on 6th complex, and is the product of partners Ellis Choi, brothers Marcus and Michael Kwan, and Charles Hung Jr., hence the name (think about it). The place debuted in July, and has been making quite a name for itself since then, especially in the Asian-American community.

A bit of background: Ka Wai "Michael" Kwan and Ka Kue "Marcus" Kwan are the duo behind Le Ka and the various Wokcanos, as well as the lesser known Backhouse, Green Hut Cafe, and Bunker Hill Bar & Grill. Together with Merrill Lynch wealth manager Kerry Moy, they form the M2K Group (again with the acronyms). The Kwan brothers also run Qpack, a restaurant packaging company, and have had a hand in the ill-fated Tatou (Hell's Kitchen Season 1 winner Michael Wray's spot) and the unfortunately-named Wok on Fire. I will also have to note that this dinner ended up being comped. That wasn't the expectation going in (as I rarely attend such meals), but one of my dining companions was acquainted with some of the owners, so that's how it turned out.

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar Menu EMC Menu
EMC's menu features a smattering of expected entries from the tried-and-true seafood playbook, but with a distinctly Asian slant, not to mention a number of straight-up O.G. Asian dishes. Click for larger versions.

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar Cocktail List EMC Wine & Beer List
To drink, think classically-leaning cocktails by Andrew Parish, as well as the requisite beer and a surprisingly decent wine list. Click for larger versions.

Whilsner Old Fashioned
Whilsner [$12.00] | Whiskey, Amaro Ciociaro, Lemon Juice, Lemon Essence, Pilsner
Old Fashioned [$14.00] | B&E Bourbon, Maraschino Liqueur, Angostura, & Orange Bitters
The Whilsner was a fantastic way to begin the evening, with its pleasantly bittersweet, herby flavors and citrus-y zing working beautifully with the Macallan 12, all while the nuances of the beer were delightfully fleeting. The barrel-aged Old Fashioned was another winner, a smart take on the classic drink with maraschino in place of sugar or simple syrup (more properly referred to as a "Fancy Free," as mentioned in the comment section). I found it very well balanced, with the slightly puckering qualities of the liqueur coming through toward the back end.

Naked Cowboy (Long Island, NY)
Naked Cowboy (Long Island, NY) [$19.00] | Served with Cocktail Sauce, Lime Jalapeño, & Horseradish
Oysters were a natural first course, and the Naked Cowboys fit the bill nicely, coming in relatively substantial to the bite, with a strong salinity and a particularly lingering, mineral-laced finish.

Crispy Garlic Brussels Sprouts
Crispy Garlic Brussels Sprouts [$6.00]
Given my penchant for Brussels sprouts, these were a must try, and did not disappoint, really showcasing the astringent, savory qualities of the vegetable along with a lovely Asian-y tinge courtesy of the sesame. Nice texture on 'em, too.

Lobster Roll - mini
Mini Lobster Roll [$8.00] | Tarragon Butter, Sea Salt, Brioche Bun
The lobster roll seems to be the de facto "gotta order" dish on seafood menu these days, and EMC's certainly made a case for itself. The crustacean arrived soft, springy, and very buttery, with a palpable sweetness to the flesh that worked hand-in-hand with the similar notes in the brioche. A nice take on the hot "Connecticut-style."

Black Pepper Beef Mignon
Black Pepper Beef Mignon [$14.00] | Chunks of Tender Beef Quick-Stirred with Onion in a Rich Roasted Black Pepper Sauce
Our sole meat course of the night recalled the "French style beef" that one finds at some Chinese places. I found it quite satisfying, with the tenderloin coming out tender and tasty, the peppery sauce serving as a fitting complement to the protein.

Uni Pasta
Uni Pasta [$18.00] | Cream, Fish Roe, Chives, Dried Seaweed
The über of-the-moment sea urchin pasta was nicely done here, the creamy, somewhat garlicky noodles dutifully enhanced by the lush, ocean-y sweetness of the uni, all while seaweed added further blasts of umami to the dish.

Whiskey Flip The Boulevardier
Whiskey Flip [$12.00] | Rye Whiskey, Byrrh Grand Quinquina, Orange Juice, Lemon Juice, Sugar, Egg
The Boulevardier [$14.00] | B&E Bourbon, Campari, Carpano Antica
Time for more cocktails. I quite liked the Whiskey Flip, finding it very well integrated and delightfully frothy, with the sweet-spicy character of the Byrrh melding perfectly with the citric qualities in the drink. Also worth trying was The Boulevardier, a barrel-aged take on the original that beautifully showcased the bittersweet nature of the Campari against the classic combo of Bourbon and sweet vermouth.

Tua Tua Clams (New Zealand)
Tua Tua Clams (New Zealand) [$10.00] | Served with Cocktail Sauce, Lime Jalapeño, & Horseradish
Getting back to the raw bar, we had some tuatuas, which I'd actually never tried before. Compared to your typical clams, these were spongier, and more interesting texturally, with an intense salinity to them countered by a noticeable amount of sweetness as well.

Clams in Abalone Broth
Clams in Abalone Broth [$15.00] | Manila Clams, Taro Noodles, Green Onions & Cilantro
Next, we come to what was probably my favorite course of the dinner. The clams themselves were spot on--firm and briny--but what really took this over the top was the abalone stock here, which lent a penetrating savor to the dish that really amplified the bivalves' inherent qualities. Also key were the scallions and cilantro, both of which provided a fantastic jolt of brightness and verve that really lightened up the dish.

Congee with Abalone Congee with Abalone
Congee with Abalone [$16.00]
The congee was another highlight, and coincidentally (or not), also featured abalone, which served as a textural counterpoint and also added a fantastic depth to the soup. Taken with scallion, ginger, and a dash of white pepper, the dish was a comforting, cozy experience that ranked among the top rice porridges I've had.

Crispy Pepper Calamari
Crispy Pepper Calamari [$8.00] | Spicy Aioli
Squid was rather tasty, with the scallion and accompanying condiment working well with the subtly savory quality of the fritters. However, I would've liked less batter, so that the texture of the calamari could've been better appreciated.

EMC Chowder
EMC Chowder [$6.00] | Potatoes, Celery, Onions, Clams, Light Creamy Broth
You gotta try the chowda at a seafood joint right? EMC's version was definitely on the lighter side, but nicely balanced, with the proper flavors all in place. Worth a try.

Aguas Frescas Bee's Knees
Aguas Frescas [$12.00] | Vodka, Mint, Cucumber, Sugar, & Champagne
Bee's Knees [$12.00] | Ford's Gin, Fresh Lemon Juice, Honey
Our last round of cocktails brought the Aguas Frescas, the lightest libation of the night with its candied, almost Jolly Rancher-esque sweetness tempered by a backbone of cucumber. Finally, there was the Bee's Knees, an unabashedly classic drink with a bracingly lemon-y flair that was duly moderated by the sugary heft of honey.

Dungeness Crab
Dungeness Crab [$38.00] | Crispy: Light Batter, Sea Salt, Garlic, Onions, White Pepper, Soy Sauce
The evening's pièce de résistance was an impressive looking specimen of Dungeness crab, done up in proper Chinese-y fashion. The crabmeat itself was sweet, tender, subtle, and expectedly difficult to extract, but went superbly with the savory, salty qualities of its accompaniments. A fun one to share--gotta suck on those legs.

Chinese Broccoli
Chinese Broccoli [$5.00]
The gai-lan worked well as a foil to the course above, its crunchy, bitter qualities nicely balancing the intensity of the crab.

Belgium Chocolate Lava Cake
Belgium Chocolate Lava Cake [$6.00] | With Whipped Cream
With that, it was time for dessert, and how expected of us to start with a rendition of the ubiquitous molten chocolate cake (a creation of Michel Bras' from the 80's, I understand). EMC's was about what you'd expect: tasty enough, but not particularly interesting.

Ginger Crème Brûlée
Ginger Crème Brûlée [$6.00]
The crème brûlée was a tiny bit more intriguing, with the piquant characteristics of the ginger really permeating the custard, all while the berries added just a hint of tartness to the fray.

Yuzu Soufflé Cheesecake
Yuzu Soufflé Cheesecake [$6.00] | With Whipped Cream
We concluded with my favorite of the desserts. I appreciated the sourness of the yuzu here, and how it really made itself known over the traditional heft and tanginess of the cheesecake.

EMC's been blowing up as of late, and I can see why. The restaurant is almost painfully on-trend, delivering on its promises of solid seafood, but with a resoundingly Asian outlook. It is really that approach that makes this place stand out from the crowd. Desserts could use a little rejuvenation (I'd perhaps consider going more overtly Asian--riffing on patbingsu for example), but service was on point, and cocktails were definitely worth checking out as well. In the end, EMC looks to be a great fit for the neighborhood, and a much-needed addition to the K-Town dining scene.


Blogger Allan said...

The word is "Chinesey" ? Something new for a Jew in NYC....

Saturday, September 21, 2013 7:39:00 AM  
Blogger H. C. said...

An "Old-fashioned" with sugar/simple syrup replaced w maraschino is actually called a Fancy Free--a fairly important distinction since maraschino has flavor (compared to the rather neutral sugar) & alcohol.

Hope EMC corrects their menu to reflect this soon (and not too many cocktail enthusiasts go to their bar in the meantime.)

Monday, September 23, 2013 5:51:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, we had different experiences. My meal was drek.

Monday, September 23, 2013 8:03:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Allan: Yeah, Chinese-y, as in Chinese-esque.

HC: Good catch; I wasn't aware of the distinction. I'll update the post to reflect that tidbit.

Sean: Sucks when that happens. Perhaps some inconsistency here then.

Saturday, October 19, 2013 4:14:00 AM  

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