K-Fusion Korean BBQ and Grill 

New restaurant translates Korean into Boisean

In Boise, most Asian eateries pander to the local palate with an interchangeable array of fried bits and Chinese American comfort food staples. Thai restaurants serve egg drop soup, Japanese joints sling kung pao chicken and Vietnamese spots offer moo shu pork. So when a new restaurant opens promising more unique, authentic fare--like K-Fusion Korean BBQ and Grill--the buzz starts to swell.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, the tiny space was jammed. The inversion haze filtered through K-Fusion's large front windows, casting muted light across the restaurant's slate-gray walls and packed, parallel rows of seating. Steaming bowls of soft tofu soup and sizzling platters of spicy pork flowed from the kitchen and jostled for space on the small tables among mini plates of mild kimchi and homemade pickles. The vibe felt awesomely un-Boise.

The bibimbap ($11) came out sputtering in a hot stone bowl with a raw egg cracked over a tiny pile of beef bulgogi and veggies--zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, bean sprouts--all heaped on a mound of rice. As I tossed the ingredients together with a glug of soy sauce and a squeeze of mild, smoky/sweet pepper sauce, the bowl continued to crackle, cooking the egg and crisping the rice around the edges.The bibimbap was on par with--but not superior to--any other rice bowl in town, though the price and portion size make it a rather spendy lunch option.

If you're looking for a more reasonably priced mid-day meal, K-Fusion offers lunch specials Monday-Friday, from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. The beef bulgogi lunch box ($8.99) came with a heap of soy-marinated beef strips sprinkled with green onions, while the spicy pork lunch box ($8.99) featured a mound of fatty-but-tender pork coated in loads of chili.

Both trays boasted a couple small slices of mayo-drizzled pajeon (a Korean-style pancake) and a squiggly pile of japchae--spaghetti-thick glass noodles tossed with spinach, egg, flecks of black mushroom, a couple hard-to-find bits of pork and so much onion that it was hard to taste much else. The side salad followed that trend, with hunks of iceberg and mixed greens doused in a chunky dressing that, for all I could tell, was made by tossing a raw onion in a blender. The brownish pickled veggies were also mostly onion, with a few slivers of jalapeno and celery thrown in.

Ruminating over how unremarkable or overtly onion-y everything had been, my eyes lingered on the specials board, which advertised a cheese potato gratin. Is it possible, I wondered, to open an Asian restaurant in Boise that doesn't pander? A tearfully spicy, flavorful place that doesn't offer egg rolls, chicken tenders or cheesy potatoes? I'm not sure, but I'm still holding out hope.

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