Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fusion - Jackson

Fusion, the mere mention of the word, when used in conjunction with food, sets my blood to boiling. Why is that? Well, in theory, there’s nothing wrong with the idea of fusion cuisine. After all, what could be better than combining the high points of several different cuisines together to form something new and fantastic? Sadly, this is rarely the case with Asian fusion cuisine. Far too often, I’ve come face to face with some sad lump of beef that’s been drizzled with soy sauce and Sriracha in a failed attempt to reinvent one of the venerable Asian cuisines. That in mind, it’s no small wonder that I had a negative view of Fusion Japanese & Thai Cuisine as soon as I heard the name, but even with this preconception, my love of all Asian cuisines made me drive to Fusion and step into the old Fazoli’s location with an open mind.

Despite the menu seeming to be evenly split between Thai and Japanese, I couldn’t help but think that the Japanese portion of the menu, or at least the sushi, was a bit of an afterthought. Maybe it was fairly predictable sushi menu, or maybe it was the tiny sushi counter that was unmanned each time I ate a Fusion. Regardless of sushi’s priority, I was at Fusion, first and foremost, for Thai so that meant starting with spring rolls.
Actually I didn’t order this single spring roll, it arrived as a precursor to my entrée. Pretty much your standard array of vegetables and vermicelli noodles, this was a well-fried and not at all greasy spring roll that went quite well with the supplied chili-garlic sauce.

In addition to my entrée, I was also brought a bowl of tom kha gai.
Heavy on the galangal and kaffir lime, and light on the chicken and coconut milk, this soup had an oddly fishy flavor.

Not long after the tom kha gai, my entrée of pork pad prik arrived.

I dove in headfirst with this dish and asked for their hottest level of spice and what I received started with a thin heat that lingered and compounded. It wasn’t anything oppressively hot but not a bad start.

While there was a decent amount of pork in the dish, I was surprised at the sheer variety of vegetables. Each turn of my fork overturned something new: onions, bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and even a few, toothsome green beans. Joining all the ingredients together was an odd brown sauce that was unlike any other pad prik I’ve tried. Basil, chilies and heat aside, there was something off putting about this sauce.

Hoping to see the full range of Thai flavors on display, I also put in for an order of the spicy basil fried rice.

Again Fusion put a variety of vegetables in a dish, this time baby bok choy, napa cabbage, carrots and tomatoes were added to the fray.
Contrary to the name, there wasn’t anything particularly spicy about this fried rice nor was there any tangible amount of basil. What did strike me about this rice was the similarity to teppanyaki fried rice.

Even with mixed feelings about the Thai section of the menu, I was curious about the Japanese offerings. As a result, a few weeks later, I was back at Fusion and starting with an order of steamed gyoza.
There wasn’t anything particularly spectacular about these gyoza. They had a decent pork filling and were well steamed.

and while they were likely the frozen, pre-made variety, when served with the simple soy based sauce, they were quite satisfying.

Joining the dumplings was my first taste of Fusion’s sushi offerings, the USM roll.

The Usm rolls was made with a shrimp tempura and crawfish filling with snow crab and spicy mayo sauce on top.
While things may look decent, actually trying the roll proved otherwise. From the start, this roll is constructed of some of the worst sushi rice I’ve ever seen.


Each piece was wrapped in a mass of clumpy, gooey rice and topped with some vaguely spicy mayo. The fillings weren’t much better but I’ll get to that next.

Hoping to enjoy a bowl of noodles and some quality tempura, I had ordered the tempura udon for an entrée.

Once I got past the assortment of snow peas, bok choy, and broccoli, I found a greasy broth full of equally greasy udon noodles. With a taste more akin to black pepper and chicken broth, any hope for the clean flavors of a dashi base was abandoned.
As for the tempura shrimp, these were an affront to the good name of tempura. A crispy bit on the outside, a gummy batter underneath, this tempura was an oily waste of shrimp.

I had all but written off Fusion, but a month later, I began to reconsider. Maybe Fusion was like so many other Thai restaurants across the south east where sushi is offered but rarely ordered. Perhaps I needed to go back and refocus on the Thai side of the menu. Maybe I needed a second opinion. Enter the always willing Sam. Eager to try anything new, Sam was more than happy to join me for a third Fusion meal.

Hoping to find solace in the salty simplicity of soy sauce noodles, we started with the pad see-ew.
Looking past the usual blend of Fusion vegetables, you arrive at the greasy, oily endearing heart of this dish.

Packed with the nutty, slightly burn flavor you can only get from a commercial wok range, this pad see-ew was a welcome start.

Taking a dish from the curry section of the menu, the yellow curry has an item rarely seen on an Asian menu, the potato.


With juicy chunks of chicken bobbing in a mustard yellow sauce, this curry has a mix of smooth & creamy coconut milk and kaffir lime. Oddly enough, I would have taken this for a bowl of chicken tikka masala, at least until the kaffir lime kicked in.

There’s something fantastically ironic about seeing a beef centric dish like nam tok in the salad section of a menu.

Char broiled to a medium rare, this beef has been mixed with roasted rice powder, onion, cilantro, scallion, ground chili, mint leaves, and lime juice and it is reason enough alone to eat at Fusion.

This dish may err on the side of spicy but rare, juicy beef and the pop of pungent flavors like cilantro, lime, and mint make it all worthwhile.

If there is one thing that sets Fusion apart from other Thai offerings in Jackson, it is the availability of duck on their menu. With a choice of pineapple duck curry, ginger duck and basil duck, there’s a fowl for every palate. Taking a cautious approach, we ordered the seemingly benign ginger duck.

Here Fusion strikes the perfect balance of flavors. The duck is juicy and dead on and the ginger flavor is in the foreground but not overwhelming. The only downfall was the best part of the duck, the crispy skin, had gone gummy, but that’s a small price to pay for the ever pleasing combination of balanced duck and ginger.

It really seems as if I’ve ridden an emotional rollercoaster with Fusion. From the start with the decent but odd pad prik and spicy basil fried rice, to the plummeting depths of the tempura, sushi, and udon, to the seemingly euphoric highs of the treasures of the Thai section, it made for a hell of a ride. In the end, it really evens out and the result is that Fusion is like many restaurants in Jackson, you have to eat defensively. While there really are some above average, borderline spectacular dishes, there’s some real dreck as well. My suggestion is to treat the sushi like what it is….an afterthought; avoid it and start your search for the quality Thai dishes. It may take a little trial and error, but you’ll eventually find a diamond or two in the rough.

Fusion Address & Information

1002 Tree Top Blvd, Flowood, MS 39232 // 601.664.7588

Fusion Japanese & Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon


The Diplomat said...

I've had similar experiences the few times I've been, though I've never been tempted by any of the Japanese offerings. I love the nam tok, and was impressed with the basil lamb and the three flavor red snapper. the potack soup was quite underwhelming though.

Anonymous said...

You don't like anything anyway ...I am not surprised and good lord did you eat all of that by yourself ? its scary