Fusion restaurants – the idea of mixing the best of different cultures and their cuisine. I love Thai food and I love Indian food, they both are very flavoursome and as I’m discovering – very, very spicy. When I stumbled across a Thai/Indian Fusion restaurant in the back streets of San Cristobal, Mexico I thought I’d hit the jackpot. They share a lot of spices between the cultures including; cinnamon, ginger, chilli, tumeric, coriander, cumin and a bunch of others. I had barely eaten that day and was prepared to treat myself to a few dishes. The American couple who had recently opened the restaurant bought out our first meal and I think I’d had 3 spoonfuls before the plate hit the table. I was bracing myself for an explosion of fusion flavours and was left terribly disappointed. It lacked spice and it lacked flavour. Thai and Indian rely very heavily on flavour and spice, in fact, that’s what they’re known for the world over. Fusion had left me unsatisfied but not completely done with fusion restaurants.
In Panama, after eating chicken and rice for one too many nights in a row we went out in search of a south-east asian restaurant and found another fusion cafe. We were skeptical but the place looked very inviting and we were hungry. We found ourselves similarly underwhelmed. That was it, I was completely done with fusion food, if a restaurants name or menu had the word fusion in it I wasn’t going anywhere near it. This was all well and good, I stuck to strictly Thai or strictly Indian or strictly Chinese, etc and was rarely disappointed.
Cut scene to Cartagena, Colombia a month later I was checking into the hostel and the lady at reception picked up on my Australian accent. She said I absolutely had try The Australian Fusion Cafe – here we go again. My homesick heartstrings were tugging at my chest and I knew I had a duty to my land of birth to at least try it – besides I hadn’t had vegemite on toast in months, something I had eaten religiously since I was a pup.
Lunchtime the next day I walk in the door and am greeted with a ‘G’day mate’ from Ian – the chef and owner, originally from Perth. Ian wasn’t in the kitchen though, he was sitting down at a table under a sign that read ‘Kangaroos – Next 5kms’, across the table was a mate of his who just touched down in Colombia. It was 11am and they were catching up over a beer, this was starting to feel authentic. I ordered vegemite on toast (it was almost obligatory for me) as well as the Stockmans Pie. The servings were huge and delicious and I only just got through my meals. Fusion was scoring some points. In a week-long stay I visited 3 times and tried the sausage roll, the fish and chips and the nachos as well as my fair share of lamingtons.
I have since had amazing meals that you could call south east asian or european fusion. I’ve come to the conclusion that when done right it allows for some delicious experimentation between cultures but when done poorly you’re left halfway in between nowhere. While I’m not completely back on board with them, I’ll keep the options open if someone recommends one.
What are your thoughts on fusion restaurants? Are you a fan? Or still slightly skeptical like?