If you’ve somehow found yourself at a 24-hour restaurant in New York’s Koreatown, you’re familiar with banchan, the rainbow of side dishes served in shallow crème brûlée ramekins that are automatically brought to your table. You also know you’re about to work for your food, usually with some help from the waitstaff who might notice you’re struggling to get the right temperature on slices of wagyu and hustle over—because they know it’d be a crime to not enjoy the meat.
Reading this, if you’re yearning for a taste of that, make a reservation pronto at Ember Korean Steakhouse, a new (opened earlier this season), spacious dinner destination in Fort Myers that’s conveniently just off of U.S. 41 on College Parkway.
It serves sushi, too—which seems perfectly suited for a night out at the enormous, contemporary-cool bar just to the left when you walk in. There are creative fusion dishes, to boot, including an excellent Seoul-inflected French-Canadian poutine. But if you’ve ever had a real-deal Korean meal, you’ll be comforted to know there are probably 40 tables with grills beyond the hostess stand and that this is the most authentic bulgogi-fueled barbecue experience in Southwest Florida. (Here, those marinated short ribs come off the brassy cooktops with juices running down the sizzling slices of marbled meat.)
You can order appetizers and dishes to share (like an irresistible dolsot bibimbap where the delightfully singed edges give Snap, Crackle and Pop a run for their money in the crunch department); however, if you get one of the Butcher’s Feasts, you don’t have to. Any of the barbecue combo platters comes not only with refillable banchan (we must have asked for four dishes of the pickled daikon, along with japchae, the stir-fried noodles that were an obsession from when I actually frequented late-night Korean places in Manhattan), but also a zesty house vegetable soup and a mixed green salad that’s not at all like the freebies you’ve grown accustomed to.
The only requirement is that you come hungry—and also that you get there before it closes (the one way you know you’re not in the Big Apple but the late hours by Southwest Florida standards are much appreciated).
To plan a visit:
Ember Korean Steakhouse
7091 College Parkway, Fort Myers
Open Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; and Sunday, 4-11 p.m.