Photo by Suzanne Parker
Cruising along Northern Boulevard, we noticed a sign proclaiming Korean Cajun Cuisine on the Little Neck building with the faux Tudor façade. This piqued our imagination. Is this a new culinary marriage like Tex-Mex or Indian Chinese?
What would constitute such a collaboration? Soondae jumbalaya? Dirty rice bimbimbap? Kimchee gumbo?
The answer turned out to be none of the above.
ITZ Fire opened its petite quarters in November. Its logo, and presumably mascot, is an aproned crawfish holding a beer mug in one claw and chili pepper in the other, sporting an evil grin. Its slogan is “Cajun meets Korean flair.” The only identifiably Cajun category on the menu is the boiled seafood. The beer menu is more of a hybrid, offering two types of Abita, a New Orleans brew, on tap, some commonly offered domestic and imported bottles, and soju (Korean spirits).
The rest of the menu is Korean. We asked our server what the Korean-Cajun connection was.
He confided that the owner ate in a Cajun restaurant in Las Vegas and loved it, and wanted to have some Cajun on the menu. He assured us that more Cajun dishes were in the works. Cross pollination of the two cuisines does not seem to be being considered.
Putting aside the idea of a new fusion cuisine, there’s some tasty casual fare to be had here. The menu is divided into small plates and mains, with some excellent Korean snack foods in the former category. Summer rolls were two rice paper burrito-sized rolls packed with raw vegetables, ham, shrimp and egg with a pleasingly tart sauce.
Bulgogi rolls also shined. They are thin sliced rib eye rolled up with fresh vegetables, and drenched in a Korean-inspired brown sauce. Another small plate, Bacono Rolls, consisting of chopped chicken breast stuffed jalapeno pepper, wrapped in bacon was less successful. We liked the idea of the bacon wrapped jalapeno, but the chicken stuffing was tasteless and mealy.
Of the mains, the seafood clearly gets star billing. The choices are crawfish, crab, or mussels.
The management here seems to believe serving them in a plastic bag with sauce makes them certifiably Cajun. We opted for the obvious choice, crawfish with a side of corn sharing the bag.
The intact crawfish were tasty morsels, if pesky to eat (supplies of bibs and plastic gloves are on the table). The sauce was, if not the most convincingly Cajun, was delightful just the same. It was spicy, garlicky and a little sweet, with undertones of numerous herbs. It enhanced the corn, and was also delicious spooned up with some rice thrown in.
Of the other two mains, the Gourmet Chicken Wings is the better choice. Koreans have a way with fried chicken, and these beautifully lacquered wings were no exception. You can choose between soy ginger or crispy habanero without making a wrong decision.
The Korean Ribs were the biggest disappointment. Described as “succulent, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs, slow cooked and drenched in our mild Korean-inspired sauce,” they tasted more like overcooked leftovers. Skip the ribs.
The Bottom Line
ITZ Fire doesn’t exactly live up to its promise of Korean Cajun Cuisine. A more accurate description would be Korean casual with some Cajun-ish seafood. Despite the misnomer, there are some tasty dishes at very affordable prices to be had.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at qnsfo
242-03 Northern Blvd.
Price Range: Small Plates: $8 – $10, Mains: $11- $14
Cuisine: Mostly Korean with Cajun style seafood.
Setting: Small, plainly decorated.
Service: Friendly, efficient, fluent in English.
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday and Sunday, 3 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m.- midnight, Closed Monday
Alcohol: Beer, wine and soju
Delivery: Grub Hub
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Noisy when busy.
Handicap accessible: Yes