Vacant establishments that are restaurant-ready don’t necessary abound in the Downtown Fullerton locale (trust us, we know a chef who has been searching extensively). Upon hearing that an eatery was opening next to Chomp Sushi, it was difficult to place exactly where it could realistically occur. Located in the former ReMax space, the proprietors of Red Chopsticks were not impeded by the lack of a kitchen in the once real estate office. They simply had one built.
This minimalist, crimson enclave houses Asian Fusion flavors with an emphasis on Korean and Vietnamese cuisine. Their menu is well-edited with a modest array of tasty appetizers; fried rice and noodle variations; the many nuances of pho; a mélange of tofu hot pots; and a delectable sampling of Korean barbecue.
The thought of Korean barbecue is enough to compel one to go out on an expedition since it is not a dish that is quickly prepared at home — what with needing to be braised or marinated for a long time to ensure tenderness. When the ample portions of gorgeous, seared meat arrive to your table on a sizzling hot plate, it’s like a 4th of July facial accompanied by flavor explosions for your taste buds. The kalbi (short rib) glistens with a hint of charred fat, just enough to permeate the slabs with its juicy goodness. The bulgogi (thin slices of beef, steeped with sesame seed oil) are piled high and beckons you to devour it with carnivorous gusto. Also offered in this grilled arena are obligatory, yet not as stellar, versions with chicken or shrimp.
For spicy cabbage lovers, the Kimchi pancake does wonders when added to fried rice and takes a humble quesadilla to the next level. More like a fritter than a pancake, jeon is made with a batter mixed with kimchi and either vegetables, seafood or meat.
For thousands of years, Koreans have perfected the art of preserving food. Many side dishes, or banchan, are pickled, salted, or fermented and oftentimes spicy. Much of Korean cooking possesses deep and intense flavors that are both savory and bold.
Vietnamese dishes, on the other hand, are of a lighter and fresher fare. Meals are typically served with greens, herbs, vegetables, and various other accompaniments such as dipping sauces, hot and spicy pastes, and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.
On chilly days and nights, the pedestrian pho is Asian comfort food at its best. A large, steaming vessel is delivered to you with accoutrements like green onions, Thai basil, Thai chili peppers, lime, bean sprouts and coriander to enhance the otherwise simple broth. Fish sauce, hoisin sauce and chili sauce may be added to taste as accompaniments.
Vietnamese egg rolls at Red Chopsticks are sweet morsels of beef and mushroom bursting from thin, crisp wrappers. Lettuce fronds are provided to offset the deep-fried unctuousness and to add crunch and color.
Another wintery standard on the roster are bubbling black cauldrons of Tofu Hot Pot. This light, but satisfying one-pot wonder is available with shrimp, chicken, ham, mushroom or a medley of seafood (shrimp, crab, mussels and squid). The silken, pillowy tofu absorbs the flavors of the fragrant, spiced stock, rendering it anything but bland and one-note.
During the day, Red Chopsticks is as sedate and innocuous as a Pick Up Stix. Those that work nearby come in for a fast, but filling lunch special. Students might rush in to grab a skewer and boba or milk tea picked from the vast cold beverage menu on the wall.
By night, the place turns into a charged event of Man vs. Food with patrons invited to take part in timed gut-busting sport. Do they do it for the glory? Is it for the honor? Most participants are doing it for the love of the game, as they work to defeat the edible “beasts” and celebrate the community that created them. Challenges are ongoing and will last until the end of this year — with the possibility of crossing over to 2012.
Red Chopsticks: Flavor Fusions for the Win!
141 E. Commonwealth Ave.
publisher | advertising
corky nepomuceno has 48 post(s) on Fullerton Foundry