By Rita Moran
Impressions: Compact restaurant with art-accented interior; very helpful service; intriguing array of food reflecting multiple cultures.
What's hot: Fusion platter, carrot-ginger soup, truffled french fries, seafood risotto, tom kha kai salmon, capellini al fungi.
2 for dinner
Starters: Fusion platter ($8.50) + carrot-ginger soup, potato leek soup ($3.75 per cup) + truffled french fries ($2.45)
Entrees: Seafood risotto ($12.95) + tom kha kai salmon ($12.95) + capellini al fungi ($7.25) + Cali wrap ($7.95)
Tab for 2: $14-$26
Culinary fusion occasionally leads to confusion, but the new Fusion Grill in Newbury Park clearly presents a mix of cuisines that are tantalizing. Whoever is hands-on in the kitchen is turning out a rich range of dishes that bolster fusion's good reputation.
Good friends had handed me the neat, two-page menu that sparked my curiosity, so we drove off together for what turned out to be an all-around delightful experience.
The general choices include panino and burger items, pasta and risotto dishes, wraps, salads and soups. We left the American burger, ahi tuna sandwich and panino di pollo for another time, along with the appealing list of salads: organic fusion, candied goat cheese, Asian endive, Nicoise and Greek among them.
Instead we zeroed in on a Fusion platter appetizer ($8.50) plus entrees that demonstrate the compatibility of various ethnic fare: capellini al fungi ($7.25), seafood risotto ($12.95) and tom kha kai salmon ($12.95). We added a side of truffled french fries ($2.45), cups of carrot-ginger and potato-leek soups ($3.75 each) and a more familiar Cali wrap ($7.95).
We couldn't fault any of the food or the attractive presentations. We shared the Fusion platter, with its luscious, juicy and sesame-enhanced shrimp, samosas and spring rolls. All were bursting with exotic flavors and had us eagerly anticipating the rest of the meal. The soups had clear, fresh flavors and the fries were perfectly cooked and gently dusted with the earthiness of truffles. The Grill also offers truffled sweet potato fries.
The flavors of wild mushrooms permeated the capellini al fungi, along with roasted bell peppers and a rich brandy sauce. The seafood risotto arrayed black mussels and shrimp over the creamy rice in its saffron white wine sauce.
Best of all was the tom kha kai salmon, featuring a thin strip of grilled salmon, which was just enough, over parsley mashed potatoes and long slivers of julienned sweet carrots and other vegetables. Melding it all was another outstanding sauce, with its tom kha kai elements of coconut milk and galangal, a spicy seasoning related to ginger.
After we zipped through dishes with ties to the foods and preparations of Italy, France, Thailand and other regions, the Cali wrap brought us home with its basic chicken, avocado, sprouts, carrots, lettuce and tomato with herb dressing in a comforting spinach tortilla wrap.
It was a quick tour, but well worth the taking.
Fusion Grill is an attractive little spot with citrus-hued walls complemented by framed art reflecting the same palette. Service was helpful and gracious, and the owner-manager, whose business cards hadn't yet been printed, couldn't have been more eager to see that we, and other diners, enjoyed the experience of discovering the freshly minted restaurant. The combination seems like a recipe for success.
Rita Moran visits restaurants unannounced and pays for her food. If you know of a new, unusual or just plain good restaurant, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
New American cuisine