New Korean-style Izakaya FuseBox Electrifies West Oakland

Bacon-wrapped mochi at FuseBox

If you haven’t noticed, new wave Korean-American food is hot. L.A.’s got the Kogi truck. N.Y. has David Chang's Momofuku Ssäm Bar. And San Franciscans just can’t get enough of the kimchee-fried rice at Namu Gaji. And while you could always find traditional DIY barbecue joints in the Koreatown-Northgate district, the arrival of FuseBox in West Oakland signals that now the East Bay is tapping into the zeitgeist.

Capturing the spirit of those tiny out-of-the-way soju bangs (or taverns) in Korea, newcomer FuseBox is a casual Korean-American "kochi-gui pub" tucked away in industrial West Oakland, dishing out affordable kochi-gui (grilled skewers), pork belly tortas and karage (all under $ 10) along with a rotating slate of housemade banchan - those delectable pickled and cooked side dishes that complement the meal. Chef-owner Sumhui Chang (who started cooking in his mom’s award-winning restaurant in Guam) painstakenly prepares traditional staples in-house from his own tofu to gochujang, the red chile paste sauce that’s considered the mother sauce of Korean cooking. But he also mixes up the menu with playful Americanized inventions such as a Tokyo Po’ Boy fried chicken sandwich, housemade Tootsie rolls and a cornflakes-and-brown-sugar pudding. Take a peek at the ever-changing menu here.

Like a good izakaya, there’s plenty of booze in the mix, including local Linden St. Brewery on tap, food-friendly wine and an array of sake and soju. For now, the minimalist 23-seater, outfitted with lots of wood, stools and textured plastered walls, is only open for lunch Wednesday-Friday, but Chang is hoping to throw the doors open for Saturday night dinner shortly. Eventually, he’d also like to open for morning coffee and pastries, serving unique baked goods with a Korean edge such as traditional hotteok - a sweet, chewy pancake filled with brown sugar and nuts. Diners on this side of the bay can enjoy West Oakland’s typical sunny weather by dining alfresco on the restaurant’s front courtyard, which opens this week.

FuseBox, 2311 A Magnolia Street, off West Grand Ave.; 510-444-3100, open Wednesday-Friday; 11:30 AM-2:30 PM this week, Saturday night dinners and expanded lunch service to follow shortly; cash or check only. To keep tabs on expanding hours of operation, check their Facebook page.


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