Monday, 14 April 2008

The Fusion Notion

Posted by Andrew

So, it appears that the third time was the charm. I originally wanted to try the Fusion Grill, located in an upscale neighbourhood on Academy Rd. just east of Kenaston Blvd., way back in February during the Dining Out Winnipeg event, but a blizzard dashed those plans very well. The next attempt was in late February on a rare overnighter in Winnipeg, but I learned that the place was quite small and that reservations are highly recommended. Finally, this past Saturday I'd booked a table beforehand and got myself an opportunity to finally try this place that features, as its name implies, fusion cuisine.

Fusion... according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary it means "food prepared using techniques and ingredients of two or more ethnic or regional cuisines". It seems to me that there are a good handful of fusion cuisine restaurants, which in a sense is not surprising considering how multicultural Canada is; heck, even mixed race/culture relationships are on the rise according to Statistics Canada. Though fusion allows for innumerable combinations of creativity and ingenuity, one potential weakness that I constantly worry about this style is that, by virtue of its style, fusion waters down each individual original cuisine. Essentially, for lack of a better term, fusion may be seen by some to bastardize original cuisines. Of course, I've come to appreciate fusion cuisine; with Canada being multicultural, "Canadian Regional" cuisine nowadays could be argued to be fusion by nature as well.

Even the restaurant's decor appeared to be a fusion in itself as well. Abstract paintings are set on mauve-grey walls while the chairs looked like throwbacks from the mid-century. Even the booth in which I was seated seemed a bit out of place, the wooden seat creaking occasionally whenever I shifted weight as it appeared to dangle a bit precariously on the wall (that booth would not have fit a second person with the limited leg room beneath the table). The upside of being seated at that booth was that I was close to the kitchen and bar, and I could overhear bits of the wait staff's conversations amongst themselves before the placed was packed. From what I could hear, it seemed like they enjoyed working there and with each other, which is always a boon for a successful restaurant; no matter how good the chef is, poor service will still leave a bad taste in a diner's mouth.

The first dish I tried was a toss-up between two appetizers, but, in the end, my love for mushrooms got the best of me and I went for the "Wild mushroom strudel with chantrelles, honey and lobster mushrooms, phyllo pastry, sour cream, smoked cheddar and white truffle oil." This was definitely not your traditional version of strudel, and the subtle sweetness of the mushrooms helped bring out the slight sourness of both the sour cream and the cheddar, and the aroma of the truffle oil that wafted to my nose was intoxicating. At first glance I thought the garnish in the middle of the dish was watercress, but upon closer viewing and tasting I realized that it was actually pea shoots. I know at least in Chinese cuisine tender snow pea vine shoots are edible, but to be honest with you I was never a real fan of that vegetable.

For my main course I went for a "Smoked then grilled elk sirloin with oyster mushrooms, barley risotto and saskatoon berry demi-glace". Though the elk was done to a nice medium, unfortunately I could taste the bitterness of some charring. I loved the barley risotto, however, and couldn't seem to get enough of it. (I apologize for the darkness of the photos... I didn't dare ruin the other diners' experiences with sudden camera flashes.)

Dessert selections were limited to only four items, one of them being creme brulee and the other three being cakes; it appears to me that dessert doesn't seem to get as much attention from the kitchen as much as it perhaps should. Nonetheless, I decided to try their Bernard Callebaut Chocolate Cake, which turned out to be quite warm and soft inside with a slightly crispy outside. One neat little surprise was the edible "bowl" holding the vanilla ice cream; I swear there was a hint of ginger or something just as zingy in it.

Fusion Grill overall gave me a better-than-average impression of itself. Though there are opportunities for improvements with respect to the cooking, the casual atmosphere, made effective in part to the small size of the dining area (I managed to count only about 12 tables) made it an enjoyable experience nonetheless. It is understandable why this place can easily get busy.

Name: Fusion Grill Restaurant
Address: 550 Academy Road, Winnipeg, MB
Cuisine: Fusion
Price Range: Lunch $22-$30; Dinner $30-50
Accessible: No

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