Fusion Asian Grill 

Knowing Fusion Asian Grill was an amalgamation of cuisines ranking among my favorite, I entered the restaurant expecting a menu divided by genre. I dreamed of an Asian food experience where I could get Masaman, kim chee, pho and sushi in one glutinous stop. However, Fusion is far more elegant than my greedy palate would have had it. Although Thai curry and sate, as well as a Chinese dish or two, do make appearances on the menu, Vietnamese dominates the selection, a fact that may be disappointing to someone with expectations similar to mine. However, to fault a restaurant for this when most local diners don't even know the difference between Chinese and Vietnamese isn't worth the trouble--especially when Fusion's food is so fantastic. Besides, any restaurant serving both Corona and Singha is "fusion" enough for me anyhow.

Despite its stripmall home, Fusion effectively banishes the brightness of the outside world with a cocoon of dark maroon-colored walls, cherry wood, thick velvet curtains and plain white tablecloths. We tucked into a corner table and watched as the house slowly packed to near-capacity during a weekend lunch. Interpreting the crowd's size as an indication of "Americanized" cuisine, I ordered two dishes I practically lived on while backpacking through Vietnam: cha gio and pho ga.

Judging by the number of tables with a plate of cha gio (Vietnamese spring rolls), they must be a crowd favorite. Served with piles of cilantro, lettuce, cucumber, vermicelli and tamarind essence sauce, the freshly fried rolls earned grunts of approval even without the subtle encouragement of the tamarind dipping sauce. A staple of Vietnamese cuisine, pho is essentially a noodle and onion soup often made with meat and served with separate sides of bean sprouts, cilantro, mint, basil, lime and chiles. It may look like a bland bowl of noodles, but the dish is seamless and understated, with a variation in flavor owing to what some villagers say is the difference in well water. Fusion's pho ga is a generous portion of thin rice noodles, chicken, cilantro and onions in a barely-there broth with just a touch of sweet on the finish. Side garnishes of sprouts and lime went into my bowl, but I neglected the jalapenos, Sriracha and Hoisin in favor of the delicate flavors of the soup as it was served. Much less delicate than my pho was my amigo's dish of stir fry. After a thorough stirring at our server's insistence, sauce and chunks of chicken emerged from beneath a pile of rice noodles and chopped peanuts. Vaguely resembling a pad Thai, the dish was a sort of stir fry with which neither of us had anything to compare it to, but one that we both enthusiastically enjoyed not once, but twice when we made an afternoon snack of the leftovers several hours later.

--Rachael Daigle pines for a place that serves Nutella, sake and chitlins.

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