Name of restaurant: EMC Seafood & Raw Bar
Concept: By the people who brought you Wokcano and Le Ka, it's Son of a Gun for the Eastside crowd – a modern space with a full bar and a seafood-focused menu. The food is Californian, touched with Asian flavors that are more Wolfgang Puck than Koreatown.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? The uni pasta, a bowl of spaghetti topped with those good ol' sea urchin gonads, along with some chopped scallion and a sprinkle of shredded seaweed. EMC's uni is fresh, briny and sweet, so creamy it almost puddles. You can and should get it live in its spiny black shell, but the pasta version gives a better glimpse into the kitchen. The pasta is cooked al dente, and the sauce is both light and rich, sea urchin liquefied with only a little fat. The best bites are the ones that incorporate the two wet tongues of uni, but there's plenty of flavor in every twirl.
Runner ups: Tempura-fried soft-shell crab sliders with soy glaze, spicy mayo and lettuce; whole branzino charbroiled and served with sea salt, red onion, white pepper, cilantro and lime juice; garlic noodles that rival their predecessor at Crustacean. And you can't go wrong with the oysters – there are about 10 varieties on the menu, all served with a trio of cocktail sauce, horseradish and lime jalapeño relish. A $1 selection is available during happy hour.
Who's at the next table? Three generations of a Korean family, celebrating a birthday. The grandfather has a giant camera, and even the babies are having a good time.
Appropriate for: First date, second date, weekend dinner if you're feeling decadent. Great for birthdays or other analogous social gatherings – you can make reservations for parties of five or more. There's a karaoke bar right upstairs. Do with that what you will.
Uh-oh: Pacing is a little haphazard. If you're greedy eaters, you can end up with an "I Love Lucy" chocolate factory situation.
Service: Friendly waitstaff, friendly bartenders, friendly owners walking around greeting customers. A pleasant experience, all around.
What are you drinking? A barrel-aged cocktail called the Boulevardier, a smooth bitter blend of whiskey, Campari and Carpano Antica.
Info: 3500 W. 6th St., Suite 101, Los Angeles (in the City Center complex), (213) 351-9988, www.emcseafood.com.