When opening a restaurant called Fusion World Cuisine, it helps to find a chef who actually possesses global experience.
Hong Kong native Wai Tung, Fusion's white-coat, cooked across France, Bangkok and Norway before moving to the Springs last year for his children's education. He soon met and befriended Tony Jin, a Chinese-born software engineer and 10-year Coloradan. Jin and his wife quickly realized that Tung, although he speaks no English, was the perfect man to help them open the restaurant they'd been envisioning for several years.
Fusion was born in September as a quasi-fine dining, abstract-rich space capped off with a gorgeous, long, wavy concrete table crafted by local designers Concrete Jungle. Jin, in a phone interview, explains that Fusion's concept "isn't just picking from different regions and trying to blend them. We try to balance the integration between different regional flavors and cooking styles." The result: a largely Asian-influenced menu with some involved culinary combinations, some twists on countries' classics, and some dishes that remain true to their land of origin.
Because of Tung's language barrier and his apparent proclivity for spontaneity and experimentation, I found it difficult over two visits to get precise descriptions of our food's complex flavors. One waitress wisely busted out a cheat sheet from a few menu printings ago, sharing her best guess and politely explaining that she couldn't just go ask the chef.
Jin says he wants to give Tung room for exploration and creativity, but acknowledges that he's trying to streamline aspects of the business, particularly menu descriptions that don't always match what's served.
Indeed, with fusion comes a bit of confusion. For instance, our diver scallops app ($10) claimed to come over stir-fried veggies in olive oil. Instead, they arrived in a slightly gelatinous, clear Chinese sauce; not bad, but surprising. Clarity aside, we loved our organic vegetarian salad ($9) of asparagus, avocado and tomato over mixed greens tossed in a basic Italian vinaigrette. We also warmed up to an initially perplexing "Asian spice blend" that resembled more of a bechamel sauce on an order of garlic spinach mussels ($8). Marinated duck and chicken lettuce wraps ($7), reminiscent of a Thai larb dish, fell a little short and could've used more spice and flavor beyond the tri-color diced bell pepper component.
Fusion's mild pad Thai dish ($12) bore no egg or shrimp but plenty of peanut crumble and chicken in a sweeter brown sauce. The seafood and vegetable medley stir-fry ($18) brought ample breaded shrimp, scallops, mussels and sea bass hunks with deliciously (if mysteriously) seasoned veggies. The fried sea bass lunch entrée ($9) delivered a giant, flaky and satisfying Panko-breaded (I think) filet with a tasty, mayo-coated apple and potato salad, a few carrots, a small pool of Thousand Island and a ramekin of a Mae Ploy-like sweet chili sauce.
My menu-topping $36 Asian-style brandy stir-fried lobster had great heat with a dynamic, spicy sauce. But that sauce was so dominant, the underlying meat hunks might as well have been prawns.
Therein lies Fusion's challenge: preserving the best of a dish while still making it new and vibrant. Here's hoping that all the experimentation yields the right balance for adventurous diners.