MORRIS COUNTY — This past August 12, Eli’s Eatery celebrated its Grand Opening in The Galleria 10 Plaza, on Route 10 East in Parsippany.
Among the many dignitaries and guests on hand was Parsippany Mayor James Barberio, who proclaimed, “I’m happy to welcome another distinctive restaurant to Parsippany. Parsippany has become a destination dining location.” And in fact, Eli’s Eatery, a Korean Fusion restaurant, adds another exciting dimension to Parsippany’s already diverse and growing culinary scene, and another opportunity to continue our gastronomical adventures.
Eli’s Eatery (the former site of the OoLaLa! Vietnamese Kitchen) perched on a hill in the Galleria 10 Plaza, can be easy to miss as you travel along the highway, so keep your eyes peeled for the Plaza entrance, which is located between Power Mill Road and Route 53. Another visual landmark would be the large, prominent clock that towers over the small strip mall. Although Eli notes a Morris Plains address it is in fact located in the Township of Parsippany.
In November of 2022, I had the opportunity to review a wonderful new restaurant in Morris Plains: Woodham Korean BBQ. I was extremely impressed with Woodham, so when I learned that the new owners of Eli’s Eatery, Chef Eleazar “Eli” Martinez and proprietor David Oh, were opening their newest venture here in Parsippany, I immediately put it on my calendar. I arrived at Eli’s with my usual group of fellow wannabe connoisseurs with high expectations.
On arrival, there is ample parking, and the attractive glass-fronted restaurant with the restaurant’s name emboldened in large red letters makes it easy to locate. On entry you encounter a contemporary, stylish, casual, modern-designed dining area; impeccably clean, bright, and airy. The natural ambient lighting from the full-sized front windows, along with the well-spaced seating arrangements and classy décor set the mood and ambiance for what was to be a warm, comfortable, and inviting dining experience.
Fifteen or so sparkling tables are thoughtfully spaced throughout the dining area. The textured marble appearance of the tables adds a touch of elegance and is accentuated by the soft, black leather seating. The color scheme is coordinated and cozy with soft beige walls, recessed ceiling lighting, and a faux wooden plank-designed floor. Décor is simple, but classy, with Asian-themed pictures adorning the walls, along with a few thoughtfully placed plants and accent pieces. A large screen TV takes center stage on one wall, displaying rotating photos of the restaurant’s various dishes, while relaxing music plays, almost unnoticeably, in the background. It is obvious that interior design requires a lot of thought, planning, and experience.
We were graciously greeted by a smiling David Oh, immediately as we entered the restaurant. Mr. Oh offered us our choice of seating and quickly arranged two tables together to ensure our comfort. As we uncorked our wine (did I mention that Eli’s is a BYOB) and in my case, opened my Kloud Original Gravity beer; a popular Korean beer brewed in Seoul; water had arrived, along with chopsticks, utensils, and menus. Mr. Oh was our server and he could not have been more accommodating, helpful, or knowledgeable. By this time Chef Eli had taken a moment to come out to welcome us to the restaurant, which I thought was a nice touch.
As always, the debate over shared appetizers began. Mr. Oh patiently answered any questions we had and offered recommendations, as we requested. Our eventual choices included the Korean Fried Chicken; double-fried chicken wings tossed in honey chili glaze and served with white daikon (squares of sour, vinegary, crunchy pickled radish that married with the fried chicken perfectly). WOW! Dukbokki; soft, chewy, rice cakes, sauteed in a sweet, savory, and spicy red chili sauce, with vegetables and beef. (A popular Korean street food), Korean Buns; hot, fluffy, soft, and moist steamed buns, loaded with coleslaw and shredded cucumber. Bursting with flavor! Not surprisingly, everything was devoured quickly, and every plate was clean. Every appetizer was outstanding, and a great kick-off to our yet-to-be-decided-upon entrees.
My entrée was Kalbijim: simmered beef short ribs on the bone, in a ginger soy garlic sauce, served with daikon and carrots. Kalbijim is an iconic Korean dish with a deep, savory, yet sweet flavor. The tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone meat, served with an umami-packed broth, was loaded with mouth-watering flavor and melted in my mouth. You could taste the freshness in every bite. An excellent and satisfying choice. The Kalbijim came with sides of brown rice, crispy Kimchi, pickled chayote, and broccoli. The broth also served as a wonderful gravy for that rice side dish. Lots of delightful flavors and textures pleasantly stimulate those taste buds.
Mike F. went with the Bokkeumbap: wok-fried rice (brown or white), with egg, bean sprouts, corn, scallions, soy, and sesame. I’d like to add that all these entrees can be adjusted to add tofu, beef, or chicken, or you can make it vegetarian if you like, as well as your preferred spice level.
Mike Z. chose to go with the Bulgogi; a powerfully flavored and marinated ribeye tossed with zucchini, broccoli, and onions in a soy-sesame sauce, while Vin tried the Dol Sot Bibimbap; served in a sizzling hot stone bowl, with mixed rice, assorted fresh and marinated vegetables, all mixed together with a spicy bibimbap sauce. Each dish was beautifully prepared, plated, and presented, and the consensus among the group was that each and every dish not only met but exceeded expectations.
Following my meal, I took the opportunity to discuss the restaurant, and the menu, with both David Oh and Chef Eli, both very amiable individuals who are enthusiastic about their joint venture. Their origin story goes back over 25 years. A friendship and partnership that developed at Woo Lae Oak in Soho continued at Bann in mid-town Manhattan, then the Woodham in Morris Plains, and now Eli’s Eatery. On their website, they state, “Eli and David’s latest venture is the much-loved Eli’s Eatery in Parsippany. This restaurant has become a testament to their gastronomic prowess and their commitment to bringing joy through food,”. After dining at their beautiful new eatery and speaking with both Mr. Oh and Chef Eli, I see the validity and sincerity in those words.
Chef Eleazar Martinez, or Chef Eli, as he likes to be called, is a trained culinary chef and a true artisan of food, which explains his unique, creative, and innovative approach to modern Korean fusion cuisine. French cuisine is identified by the dining experience and is considered by many to be the most prestigious and respectable cuisine in the world. It requires careful presentation, elegance, and community. It is this knowledge, along with years of extensive training that has enabled the Chef to develop his own personal concept of Korean Fusion cuisine.
Even though the restaurant’s menu offers a large selection of traditional Korean classics, it is this French culinary influence, along with Chef Eli’s innovative concepts, that makes Eli’s Eatery stand out from the crowd. As I understand it, “traditional Korean flavors, with a French culinary influence, and a modern twist.”
And for those of you looking to go out for a nice dinner, but the kids want chicken tenders, a cheeseburger, PB&J, or the like, not a problem. Eli’s Eatery offers a Kids’ Menu offering those delicacies, along with enough other kid favorites that should please everyone
For those unfamiliar or intimidated by Korean cuisine, you’re honestly missing out if you don’t try it. David Oh and/or Chef Eli will be more than happy to guide you along on your new culinary adventure. I highly recommend you stop in this beautiful new venue and enjoy the experience. I’m confident once you discover this cuisine, packed with flavor, you will be back.
Eli’s Eatery (Korean Fusion Restaurant) is located at 2569 Route 10 East, Morris Plains. (In Galleria 10 Plaza). Phone: (973) 206-1717; www.eliseatery.com; Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (7 days a week); Dine In – Take Out – BYOB; Free Parking – Free Wi-Fi – Outdoor Dining. Catering.
Reprinted from Parsippany Focus Magazine. October 2023. Click here to view.