Location: 3071 Brighton 4th St.Time: 2pm
People: 9 Ramen and Friends: Sekita from KiKaEats, Binx2, JLam from MeSoHungry, Todd & Elisa, StevenC, Effie, RB and myself
Feelings: When I heard about the Korean-Uzbek restaurant in Brighton Beach, I made sure to have our monthly outing at Elza Fancy Food. I managed to skype my dad, a retired history teacher before our adventure. "What's the deal with Russia and Korea?" He explained nearly 20 minutes about ethnic Koreans and their mass deportations to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. It's a good thing Skype is free. It is fascinating that one restaurant could represent a piece of history...and make my dad speak non-stop for such a long time.
My Russian friend and I called several times to make a reservation, but we were all told, "No reservation." However, upon arrival, I was told they do indeed take reservations, so keep calling if you are going with a big group.
The space is a typical Brighton Beach Russian eatery. Women in rather flashy coats wash down their food with BYOV (vodka). Two Russian men quietly eat while watching Russian pop music videos on the wall. We don't see a hint of Korean influences except some kimchi-like objects in the display case.
I looked through the menu and found that half of the menu consisted of salad, which was similar to Korean banchan. The eggplant hye ($3.99), funchoza noodle salad, fish salad ($6.99), and carrot salad were all refreshing and flavorful. They were not spicy by any means, but bright red chili colors were displayed everywhere.
While StevenC was underwhelmed by their food, RB thoroughly enjoyed borsch and braised cabbage with rice and meat ($4.29). He thought the borsch was delicate and delicious, and the braised cabbage was a tastier version of what his mother used to cook.
I know I should have ordered the Korean noodle dish, Kuksu ($5), but it seemed too beef-tastic so I decided to skip. The pilaf section of Plov ($6.50) was delectable with greasy and vinegary flavor from all the lamb juice on the top. As you may have noticed, it is not a vegetarian friendly spot.
If you don't feel like bringing your own alcohol, apple compot ($.75) is worth a try. It is rather mild and weak, but still sweet and refreshing. If you do feel like BYOB, the corner store offers a large variety of Eastern European beer. RB, JLam and Todd came back with a bag full of 99 cent Ukrainian beer they seemed to enjoy.
With $16 each (They added 18% service charge), we left full with a few bags of leftovers. "Definitely worth the trip, and I'd actually prefer to go there over Veselka if I have enough time in a day," said Effie. Elza shows us the glimpse of the culinary history of the ethnic Koreans, and even further to their cultural history. They survived the brutality of Stalin and created some of the most memorable dishes that can warm up your souls-- Only Orson Welles' line in Third Man could sum this all up. "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love-they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock."