A confession right up. The notion of ‘fusion’ food makes me very very nervous. It speaks to me of a chef who’s a jack of all trades, master of none. However, there are a couple of reasons this Asian new place won me over.
Diagonally across from the Queen’s Arms Hotel at the quieter end of James Street; Fusion 54′s owners have done a good job on the fit out. I can’t remember what was there before, but it’s an attractive space now, with three rooms in dark wood, the last which they will turn into a private dining room for groups, with a couple of big ornate mirrors.
The menu is indeed a fusion and to be fair, I guess that it’s probably a good move to offer choice in this area, where there’s likely to be lots of repeat business. Thus, you’ll find Beef Pho under Pad Thai or Black Bean Beef. As well as a well priced lunch menu, where everything was $10 (except for the $4 chicken and corn soup), there’s a ‘Snacks and Street Food’ menu, which held appeal for us.
From this, we ordered the mini savoury crepes. If you haven’t had these before-they’re a yellow-hued (from turmeric) thin Vietnamese pancake in this case encasing shreds of pork, prawn and bean shoots.
They’re a moorish little snack and in this case, I was impressed by the freshness and quality of the ingredients. From this menu, we also chose steamed dim sims, which, inside their wrinkled wrapper had a very flavoursome filling of pork, with waterchestnut, shallots and coriander. If you’ve had these in Chinese restaurants, often they’re fairly bland, with the filling a bit pasty, but here you could taste all the individual ingredients and the pork was juicy and moist.
I can’t pass up a Pho, so both my dining companion and I went for the duck Pho (pronounced ‘Fur’). This was made on a very flavoursome stock, with generous and tender cooked pieces of roasted duck. A platter held bean sprouts, chilli, lemon and some Vietnamese mint as well as a bowl of hoi-sin sauce. What was unusual for me, was the size of the noodle, fat (ho fan I think they may be called) rice noodles that were incredibly difficult to grab with chopsticks, despite being usually proficient in chopstick use.
Again, very fresh ingredients.
My dining companion was raving by now. I thought everything we had eaten was good, but I wasn’t perhaps as enthusiastic as she was. However, there are some menu items I want to try next time that may sway me more to the side of greatness; Lemon grass pork chop, chicken laksa, and the five spice boneless quail for instance.
Prices are very good, particularly for a James Street venue, and it was an added surprise when we went to pay the bill to find they had a an opening special of 20% off the bill.The owners of Fusion are Vietnamese, and from what I could gather, it’s pretty much a family affair with everyone involved in the restaurant.
Personally, I’d love to see more Vietnamese items on the menu, particularly those that aren’t on every menu from Darra to the Valley, but it sounds like the owners are very keen to give diners what they want, so I expect the menu will morph to reflect the taste of diners.
Eager to please and genuinely interested in our feedback, they couldn’t do enough for us and I really hope that they do well.
Fusion 54, 79 James Street New Farm. Ph 3358 6968.