Review: K-Fusion Korean BBQ & Grill, Boise, Idaho
Boise’s Asian restaurant scene is pretty hit and miss….mostly miss. We have gobs of Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, and Chinese (can we really even call them Chinese restaurants?), but that’s it. So when I heard that there was a new Korean BBQ restaurant in town, I was filled with excitement of something new to sink my teeth into.
Korean BBQ is some dang tasty stuff. Succulent marinated meats, hot rice dishes, intensely flavored noodles, and banchan (tasty little side dishes of pickles, kimchi, salads, and more) all take center stage at Korean restaurants. The flavors tend to be more sharp and daring than most other Asian cuisine. Good Korean BBQ is a treat unlike any other. But could it be found in Boise?
K-Fusion is the only Korean anything in town, well other than a food truck that claims to be Korean, but last I checked Korea didn’t really have tacos. Anyway, I had high hopes of filling my Korean void when I entered K-Fusion’s small restaurant on Broadway. Things smelled good, and the menu looked fairly authentic. But true to form with the rest of Boise’s Asian dining scene, K-Fusion was hit and miss.
K-Fusion Appetizers Good and Bad
We ordered a couple appetizers to sample things off with. The Beef Cheese Ball, or meatball, looked interesting. Meatballs are a very common item in Korea called gogi wanja. Traditionally, they are served in soups, hot pots, or served plain accompanied with a sauce that is often sweet. K-Fusion’s meatballs were made with ground beef, garlic, black pepper, dry parsley, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, and were stuffed with melting mozzarella cheese. Honestly, they were a bit confusing. Were they Italian or Korean? In lieu of a sweet sauce, K-Fusion just sprinkled powdered sugar on them. The sugar gave the same sweet effect I suppose, but seemed a bit lazy and not very Korean. The meatballs were actually very tasty, but just seemed like a sweeter version of Italian meatballs. Where was the lemon grass? Where was the gochujang (Korean chili sauce)? With a little basil, these would have been right at home on top of spaghetti marinara. They were good, but not very Korean.
We also tried the Cheese Potato Gratin. This was not on my top list to try, but the rest of my party wanted to give it a go. The menu said, “mashed potato, bulgogi, garlic, butter, parsley powder, Parmesan cheese, and mozzarella cheese.” What it didn’t say was, “chunks of undercooked potato, and a half cup of sugar.” This stuff was awful. It was super smooth, other than the hard undercooked potato chunks, but tasted like potato pearls rather than fresh potatoes. There was cheese, and a hint of bulgogi beef, but all I could really taste was the sickening sweet sugar. Why was there sugar in the potatoes? I mean really, what the hell? This stuff was gross and would have made better spackling than food. I couldn’t even justify taking a picture of it.
Good Korean Short Ribs in Boise
We were told the Short Ribs were fantastic. We were told the truth. K-Fusion outdid themselves with deliciousness with their Char-Grilled Hot Stone Galbi (grilled short beef ribs and rice). Marinated in a strong soy and sesame base, the beef screamed with flavor! The melting fat around the ribs was intoxicating. These were every bit as good as any other Korean short rib I’ve had. They were absolutely delicious. They were served on a very hot “stone” plate, sizzling with onions. I could have eaten these ribs for hours, and could go on for 10 minutes telling you about how good they were. But alas, just go order a plate or two of them for yourself.
Where to get Bibimbap in Boise Idaho
Ah bibimbap, the king of Asian rice bowls! I’ve been craving this crazy rice dish for years. One is finally available close to home! Bibimbap is quintessential Korean: steamed rice, veggies, sliced meat, gochujang (Korean chili sauce), mushrooms, and a raw egg all put in a bowl to be mixed together by the eater right before eating. K-Fusion’s version is the more exciting variation of doisot bibimbap, which is served in a very hot stone bowl which continues to cook the rice into a crispy crackle crust right under your nose. Yum! I can’t think of a more exciting rice dish out there! However, K-Fusion missed the mark a bit with their bibimbap.
First, the stone bowl was so hot that it burned the rice before I even had a chance to start mixing. It also kept the rice so piping hot that it nearly burned my mouth at every bite, clear up to the end. I had to ditch the metal chopsticks a third of the way through because they were too hot to put in my mouth any more. Bring the temperature of that stone bowl down by 100° and you’d be on to something grand, K-Fusion. Secondly, the flavors in the bowl were lacking. Things were OK, but needed a major flavor boost. You can do better K-Fusion, and I sincerely hope that you do. You have the only bibimbap for hundreds of miles around. Shouldn’t you make it exceptional? That being said, it was OK with some added gochujang, and was very fun to have in front of me. This was not the bibimbap I was hoping for, but I guess it would be worth the presentation experience if you’ve never had doisot bibimbap before.
Freaking Fantastic Japchae at K-Fusion Restaurant
As good as the short ribs were, the real winner of the night was the Japchae. Damn, this stuff was good! Japchae is traditionally made with clear “glass” noodles, which are made from sweet potato starch, stir fried in sesame oil with thinly sliced vegetables, mushrooms, beef, soy sauce, and sugar. K-Fusion’s version sticks pretty close to tradition. I liked that they used wood-ear fungus for the mushrooms, and the added thinly sliced scrambled egg was a nice touch. Our table devoured the stuff. Truly exceptional. This was the Korean taste I was looking for. Thank you for this dish K-Fusion.
Mmmm…..bulgogi! The magical transformation of beef into bits of heaven that could make a hardcore vegan go carnivore for an hour or two. Bulgogi is strips of beef marinated in soy, sesame oil, and sugar for hours, then grilled over smoking coals until carmelized. Traditionally served with rice and veg, this stuff is on my top list. My father-in-law makes the best on the planet, so I have pretty high standards of what bulgogi needs to be. But K-Fusion did a pretty good job with their’s. Not as good as the perfection I’m used to, but decent enough for most. It had a strong black pepper taste, which I really liked. But it was grilled on a flattop rather than over coals, so it was missing the added depth of smoke good bolgogi should have. But K-Fusion’s version is worth an order and was enjoyable.
No Banchan at K-Fusion
My biggest complaint of K-Fusion is that none of the dishes we ordered came with any banchan, those delectable little side dishes so essential to Korean cuisine. I’m not sure if they don’t know how to make them, don’t care, or didn’t want to eat into their profits by serving them, but it was a major disappointment not having them with our meal. This coming from a guy that doesn’t even like kimchi. I just think that if you’re going to be a Korean restaurant you should make it a true Korean experience for everyone that comes through your doors. Maybe that’s what the “fusion” part of their name is for….”at K-Fusion, we’ll fuse in some Korean, leave out most Korean, and throw in some random Italian meatballs just for fun.”
The Bald Gourmet reviews K-Fusion Korean BBQ & Grill and finds it to be a hit and miss dining experience.