The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

September 14, 2008

Jo Ellis: Root Zero 3 eatery set to take off

From its beautifully designed brick and copper exterior to the huge crystal chandelier dominating the entry, Root Zero 3 has gone first-class all the way. This new American-style buffet and bar, located at the northeast corner of the Highway 571 and County Road HH intersection, opens to the public today.

The restaurant is owned by Jung and Yung Lim, who are not new to the business. The Lims opened Bamboo Garden in the mid-1970s in a former Kentucky Fried Chicken building at Central and Garrison avenues. On that site, they have since built a new restaurant and have expanded it. Today, it is one of the Carthage area’s more popular eateries.

Now about that name, which has had Carthaginians wondering ever since the big sign was erected. It has a very personal meaning to the owners. Root is Yung Lim’s middle name, and Zero 3 designated the south end of the runway at the old Carthage airport — the exact site where the restaurant has been built.

Yung, who earned his pilot’s license in 1996, owns his own plane. Earning that license was difficult for Yung simply because of the language barrier, according to David Waller, a Carthage insurance agent and also a pilot.

“He was so happy when he got it, he invited all his fellow aviators in for a dinner,” Waller said.

I was fortunate on Thursday to time my interview when the Lims were having a trial run for the restaurant. Close to a couple dozen new employees were receiving instructions and sampling several food selections they will be serving. Jung insisted I try some. I was not disappointed.

I especially liked the wide variety of vegetables and salads offered. The spicy chicken wings, as well as the crab salad and mashed potato salad, were great. Jung prepares some of the dishes herself. When things settle down, she said some Mexican dishes probably will be added to the menu. I also got a tour of the new stainless-steel kitchen area, which has a three-bay sink that’s almost large enough to wash a small Volkswagen in.

Although Jung said the restaurant has approximately the same seating capacity as Bamboo Garden — about 300 — although it feels much larger. The buffet tables, to my eye, are at least five times the length of those at the Garden. A glass-enclosed area allows customers to watch their steaks sizzling on a grill. Several wait stations are conveniently located so drinks can be served quickly.

The restaurant is sectioned into four seating areas, featuring comfortable tables and chairs. Half walls, holding large aquariums with tropical fish and colorful glass-paned dividers, engender a cozy feeling, but there is lots of natural lighting as well. On the east end of the building is the bar area, decorated in soft blue-greens, and shades of beige and gold, with a flat-screen TV and a striking ceiling that is silver-metallic in color. On the west side, large windows look out on a three-tier cascading waterfall that flows into a pool landscaped with rocks and plants — a feature ideally situated to block the glaring afternoon sun.

With architectural plans still spread on one table, this ambitious team said they are ready to open their second business. “Yung and I have planned it a long time,” said Jung. “We are a combination.”

New eatery

Restaurant hours will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Bar hours may be extended on Fridays and Saturdays at a future date.