Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fine Dining at Fusia

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Detroit Synergy Supper Club at Fusia inside Asian Village. Now, I've been wanting to check out Fusia for quite some time, but just never got around to it. Since opening last summer, Fusia has introduced a new chef and, under his authority, redesigned their menu to much critical acclaim.

And would you like to know who that new chef is? Of course you would.

Fusia's new chef is Shawn Mac...formerly of Twingo's most recent failed incarnation, as well as boocoo in Royal Oak (at the time they won Hour Detroit's Restaurant of the Year in 2004--and before they shuttered their doors in late 2006).

Wanna know who else works there? Rick Jewell, formerly the sommelier of Tribute in Farmington Hills (and where I got to know him), and manager of Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor. Imagine my surprise as well as my elation when he snuck up one me with a "Well, hello there." At Tribute I knew him only in his som. capacity, but at Fusia he is the General Manager, where he utilizes his skills learned as a som. as well as a manager at Zingerman's to give patrons a wonderful dining experience with the most friendly and welcoming demeanor coupled with the utmost professionalism. Rick served the wine that was selected with the meal (an optional wine package was available for only $10.00) and explained its origins and flavors to each attendee; he also aided in the serving of the food, and even brought out Chef Mac when my table raved endlessly about how wonderful everything was (fortunately for me I was sitting with some real foodies).

The service was top-notch--exactly what one would expect from a four-star fine dining establishment--and that's impressive, considering the Synergy group filled the entire dining area to capacity and the servers were nothing short of swamped. Rick & Co. had the event flawlessly organized and executed, with courses perfectly timed and served with four-star flair.

Ah, but the food...ah yes, the food.

ZOMFGZ. Being with the Detroit Synergy Supper Club, the menu was prix fixe. For only $30.00, supper club participants got a 4-course meal as selected by the chef, as well as an optional wine packge for an additional $10.00 which included 2 glasses of wine. To order all of the items a la carte likely would have cost about $65.00, so this was a real steal--not to mention a great way to experience a new restaurant for the first time.

First we started with the Baby Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Chili Garlic Sauce--or, what they refer to as "Asian Mac & Cheese." And despite the fact that there is absolutely neither mac nor cheese in this dish, the nickname does it justice. The shrimp were perfectly crispy all over with just the right amount of the creamy sauce to cover them--the effect was distinctly comfort-foody, and these baby shrimp disappeared quickly from all of the trendy white tilted appetizer dishes.

Our second course was the Mixed Asian Greens with Chow Mein, Spicy Tofu Croutons, and Passionfruit Vinaigrette. Now, I'm not big on tofu, in any incarnation, and this was really no exception. However, I can say that the pairing with the crunchy chow mein noodles and the passionfruit vinaigrette as well as the salty spiciness of the croutons themselves were certainly a winning combination, though I personally would have preferred less (as in no) tofu and more vinaigrette. Regardless, this certainly tops my list of one of the more interesting salads I've ever had, and was indeed tasty despite the tofu.

For me, tofu is like polenta. It doesn't matter how you dress it up, it will always be disgusting.

Ugh, I hate polenta...

For the entree, we were treated with Togarashi (aka--the Japanese version of all-spice)-Encrusted Filet of Beef with Udon Noodles and Chinese Long Beans. This dish was superb. Firstly, the beef was expertly prepared somewhere between medium and medium-well, with absolutely no fat (I understand the fat gives the meat its flavor, but I just prefer not to have to chew on it myself--especially when it's all chewy and fatty and nasty, or all stringy and fatty and nasty....gross). The flavor of the beef was rich and juicy, as if it had stewed in its own juices for hours, just soaking it all in. And then came the udon noodles--somehow the beef had escaped the flavor of the noodles and the sauce they were served in. Sampling only the beef at first, I was quite satisfied with the simple flavor, and then I incorporated the noodles--thick Japanese noodles perfectly al dente in a kickin' spicy sauce that, while entirely different in style and flavor from its beef component, complimented it expertly. This dish literally exploded with flavor--so much so that it burned a little.

For dessert, we received an Asian Key Lime "Pie"--more of a tart, which was wonderful on its own, but when paired with the pineapple caramel and the lighter-than-air coconut mousse (I would call it more "foam" than mousse, as mousse tends to be densely creamy and not at all the consistency of this), this dessert became a unique delight. Again, a combination of flavors that paired well, with consistencies that were very complimentary (the creamy key lime filling, the foamy coconut, the sticky caramel, the crumbly tart--all come together for a big mouth forgy).

For the wine pairings, we sampled two Charles Smith wines. For the appetizers and salads, we had Smith's Kung Fu Girl Riesling, a light, zingy wine that matched the equally zingy notes of the first two dishes, offsetting the spices of the shrimp's chili sauce nicely and complimenting the traces of fruit in the salad's vinaigrette dressing. Hints of crisp pineapple and florals abound with this one, and it is definitely a standout in American-made Rieslings (one of very, very few). For the entree, we got to sample Smith's Holy Cow Merlot--and it's not just a clever name. Holy Cow does well to bring out the soft, subtle notes of the merlot varietal (which can often be too heavy for its own good and is typically better when blended), allowing the notes of fruit and earth to dance a little on the palate before the tannins take over. Charles Smith Wines--further proof that the Columbia Valley in Washington State is THE BOMB (and Napa is only a name). The best part of this producer is that the wines are very, very cheap. Charles Smith began his eponymous label when he decided he wanted to make wines full of depth and character available to the market, he did. And we thank him for it.

For dessert Rick broke out a little something special for us all--a Sauternes-like dessert wine (though not itself a Sauternes, and DAMN IF I CAN REMEMBER THE NAME OF IT) as a little extra bonus treat for everyone. It had all the honey-like characteristics of a Sauternes, and as I recall is made by the same methods (botrytis infection, or noble rot, of the grapes), and the concentrated golden sweetness of this wine was a wonderful offset to the tart tanginess of the key lime.

Overall, it was a wonderful event, with top-notch service, a beautiful backdrop, and first-rate food. I kick myself a little for never having been before, but very much look forward to going back.

But first I need to convince Shawn to put the Duck Three Times entree back on the menu...