Excels at Celebrating the Diversity of World Cuisine

Zeno is dead. Long live Zeno…or, as it so happens, Fusion—the successor under the same management. The renamed restaurant space once known for its focused coffee and dessert menu has done a complete about-face. Instead of selecting a niche cuisine of any sort, the concept—which is carried out not so much within each dish as it is across the menu—is about as varied as I’ve seen. To be quite honest, I didn’t think the staff would be able to pull it off. Baked goat cheese, avocado quesadillas, and sushi under one roof? That sounds a lot more like a food court than a restaurant. But take one bite of the Baked Clams ($5.95) in white wine and butter, and any unpleasant mall thoughts vanish like so many weak czars.

Chef’s Choice, including Maguro (tuna), Suzuki (striped sea bass), Hirame       (flounder), Envy, Copasetic, Fusion roll, Tuna Tataki, Tekka (tuna), Negihama (yellow tail and scallion), veggie roll, spicy tuna, Spider roll, Crunchy, Caterpillar; Cucumber Feta Tapenade—European cucumber, kalamata live; Lava Cake—a rich chocolate eruption caused by combining chocolate soufflé cake and rich ganache, heated to an extreme; dining area. Photos by Hubert Bonnet

From the Starter Plates menu, we also sampled the Baked Goat Cheese Dip ($9.95), the Edamame ($4.95), and the Cheese Plate ($12.95). A little eclectic, perhaps, but like the old interior design mantra—“if you like it, it probably will work together”—the edamame actually is refreshing next to the creamy, tangy goat cheese dip and fresh baked focaccia. A worthy cheese plate is almost a requisite for any local restaurant with a cuisine remotely able to accommodate it. Fusion’s adaptation (with red grapes, Turkish figs, and salted almonds) easily could delight a table of two to four.

My dining partner had our meal served to us in the lounge, which is furnished with low tables and sleek, mod furniture, but nevertheless imparts a positively Roman vision of luxury and comfort with upholstered columns and soft lighting. Complete the mood by ordering from the extensive wine list, all available by the glass. Of course, if sake is more to your liking, you can find that, too, along with bottled beer, plus French press coffee, espressos, and lattes—but you get the idea.

The martini list includes 16 cocktails priced at just $8. Not surprisingly for Fusion, it has something for just about everyone—including me. Knowing my apathy toward sugary cocktails, our server brought the tart Pomegranate Martini (Finlandia Vodka and pomegranate juice), followed by the smooth and sensual Red Lotus (Stoli Razberi Vodka, Chambord, mango, white cranberry, and lime juice). My dining partner, who more easily is tempted by the sweeter drinks, was treated to the bold and fruity Raspolitan (Stoli Razberi, Triple Sec, white cranberry, and Chambord). Throughout the course of the meal, we also indulged in the Espresso (Stoli Vanil, Tia Maria, Kahlua, Frangelico, and espresso) and the Tiramisu (Stoli Vanil, Bailey’s, Tia Maria, and Kahlua). I surprised myself by taking such a fondness to the tiramisu, but it was quite fantastic, impressing even this single malt scotch lover.

If you’re looking for soups, salads, flatbreads, quesadillas, panninis, and pasta, Fusion offers them. We sampled the delicate Chicken Apricot Salad ($8.95) alongside the robust European Flatbread ($9.95), a flavor-packed dish thanks to sun-dried tomato puree, olives, sausage, roasted red peppers, and goat cheese.

Should you venture to Fusion, I would recommend experimenting with just such unlikely pairings—it truly is amazing how many tastes and flavors that different cultures around the world have developed. Fusion excels at celebrating the diversity of world cuisine as a whole, while managing to be respectful to each individual dish.

Next on the culinary tour was the Avocado Quesadilla ($8.95). Perhaps the addition of orange zest to the somewhat more conventional cilantro/red onion/tomato/Monterey jack cheese/sour cream filling gave it such zip. If you’re looking for a light but satisfying happy hour bite, this little quesadilla would do the trick.

When it comes to Fusion’s sushi, keep your expectations fairly high. I sampled two off-menu items: a spicy salmon roll, and cubed yellow tail doused in truffle oil. Yes, traditional favorites are offered, but if you already are eating sushi at a place that also serves quesadillas, you might as well be adventurous: Get a signature roll; or, better still, let the chefs experiment for you.

All in all, Fusion is about as far from Zeno as you can be conceptually, except for one thing: the management team wisely kept the coffee and dessert menu. The Crème Brûlée ($6.95) is as rich and sensual as ever; the chocolate-filled Lava Cake ($7.95) practically begs for both spoon and fork; and the Caramel Chocolate Truffle Cake ($8.50) would satisfy even the most desperate of chocolate cravings. The list goes on, of course, like so many things at Fusion.

My advice? Try Fusion during a late- night happy hour, when appetizers, house wine, sushi, beer, and signature martinis are half-price. Choose randomly, sit back, and enjoy the culinary world tour.

Fusion Restaurant Bar
2919 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
(612) 824-6300

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