Fusion Grill, Barracks Row

I was very leery walking into Fusion Grill on this beautiful autumn evening on Barracks Row (perhaps a contradiction in terms) – compared to the surrounding restaurants, it was relatively empty, with only about a half-dozen customers inside.

Never having been here before, I decided to “dip my toe into the water” rather than take the plunge, so I ordered risk-free and delicately.

The few people at the bar seemed to all know each other, and my bartender was perfectly friendly and attentive, in a mellow, dreadlockian sort of way.

I started off with a bottle of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA ($5.95), and sipped as I read the menu carefully.

At home, I’d noticed that Fusion Grill seems to be proud of their crab cakes, so I ordered one Jumbo Lump Crab Cake ($12.95) as an appetizer, served with Asian slaw and Chinese mustard vinaigrette. Also, the Sweet Potato Tempura ($4.25) to round out part one of a two-part meal.

Well, surprise! I enjoyed both my dishes very much. The crab cake arrived first, about the size of a large plum, or slighly smaller than a tennis ball. Indeed, it was jumbo lump, with minimal binder that resulted in almost zero structural integrity – it buckled and collapsed upon the first fork cut, leaving me a flattened round of lump crap in a somewhat salty mustard sauce (there were three small pools of a pale green vinaigrette on the plate that didn’t seem necessary, but didn’t interfere with the dish). This was a good crab cake that was no bargain, but was fair value – made better because of its very good homemade slaw, consisting of cabbage, red pepper, and carrot strips, dressed in a semi-sweet Asian vinaigrette.

On the other hand, the sweet potato tempura, at $4.25, was sensational for the price – seven large strips of battered sweet potato (probably adding up to an entire skinned potato), looking something like battered fish sticks, but having freshly baked cuts of sweet potato inside instead of fish, and served with an important tub of soy-based sauce for dipping. If you’re a tempura aficionado, you may be disappointed, but in the genre of “battered, deep-fried sweet potato,” it was really very good. And along with the crab cake, made a nice small meal for a total of $17.20 without beer. The sweet potato was enough to provide filler without being boring, and the crab provided you with your protein splurge, the slaw adding the occasional bite of acidic sweetness.

Two gentlemen sitting to my left appeared to order chicken with black bean sauce, and if I lived in the neighborhood and wanted carryout, I’d roll the dice on this.

I know that Fusion Grill hasn’t gotten much attention, but based on this one visit, I’m raising it a few notches in the Barracks Row Dining Guide – not to Italic, but up from where it was before. Color me pleasantly surprised.

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