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Tom Sietsema's panning of Grace's Mandarin a few weeks ago got me to thinking about the whole Asian Fusion trend. These places are everywhere, and Washington has so much really good ethnic Asian places with authenticity, you have to wonder why we're being invaded by this fusion craze.

In a recent meal at Cafe Asia in Rosslyn, I noticed five sushi chefs at the sushi bar, and not one of them were Japanese or even Asian. I have heard of nightmarish-like dining experiences at Zengo, and I normally wouldn't go into PF Chang's unless somebody else was paying. The PF stands for Paul Fleming, who, last I checked, wasn't Asian.

Along with the fusion craze comes the apparent need to be uber-trendy, like Tara Temple in Clarendon with its throbbing techno beat and black-clad waitstaff.

Aside from maybe Ten Penh, there isn't and Asian fusion restaurant in the DC area that would make my top 25 list, and I'm not sure Ten Penh is there either.

Is it just me, or are there others who are bothered by these places?

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[The following posts have been split into separate threads:

Suki Asia (NolaCaine)]

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I noticed five sushi chefs at the sushi bar, and not one of them were Japanese or even Asian. <snip>

The PF stands for Paul Fleming, who, last I checked, wasn't Asian. <snip>

Is it just me, or are there others who are bothered by these places?

I'm more bothered by your implication that authentic cooking requires a particular genetic background.

...where has sthitch gone, anyways?

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I'm more bothered by your implication that authentic cooking requires a particular genetic background.

FWIW, I didn't sense this implication, and I also agree with some of what he wrote, including the examples he used (although the ongoing trend doesn't "bother" me any more than Madonna bothers me; from my perspective, she barely even exists). That having been said, The Source belongs on anyone's Top 25 list, and you could make the case for a few others as well. On the other hand, the techno-throb aggression is pure, unadulterated chicken shit - designed by superficial, polyester-wearing, Cosmo-sipping dorks, and intended for the mentally feeble. I have spoken.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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FWIW, I didn't sense this implication, and I also agree with some of what he wrote, including the examples he used (although the ongoing trend doesn't "bother" me any more than Madonna bothers me; from my perspective, she barely even exists). That having been said, The Source belongs on anyone's Top 25 list, and you could make the case for a few others as well. On the other hand, the techno-throb aggression is pure, unadulterated chicken shit - designed by superficial, polyester-wearing, Cosmo-sipping dorks, and intended for the mentally feeble. I have spoken.

Cheers,

Rocks.

I wasn't implying anything ethnic at all, it was just that I was struck by the incongruity of what I have come to expect from really good sushi. And Madonna bothers me.

Thanks for echoing the techno-throb. I avoid those places like Anthony Bourdain avoids Rachel Ray (who also happens to bother me).

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Fusion food to me is usually take some Asian food, incorporate hoisin, miso, soy, or ginger in the sauce, make the portion smaller, the presentation verticle, and triple the price. I have a hard time justify paying for Fusion food.

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I wasn't implying anything ethnic at all, it was just that I was struck by the incongruity of what I have come to expect from really good sushi. And Madonna bothers me.

Thanks for echoing the techno-throb. I avoid those places like Anthony Bourdain avoids Rachel Ray (who also happens to bother me).

Apologies for misunderstanding, then. And I agree about the music.

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While I have had passable sushi made by a Spanish "sushi chef", it just wasn't quite the same as having sushi made by someone who had grown up with sushi as commonplace fare. My one (and only) trip to PFChang with Grover ended with us asking why dumplings would want to swim in a bowl of soy sauce and declaring, that in spite of what the server thought, Caucasians did, as a matter of fact, eat whole (even with the head on) steamed fish...even if it took calling the manager over to tell him the same thing. The fact that the food we were served was a pale imitation of American/Chinese food might have put us off a bit. Don't even get me started on Cafe Asia which should take the Cafe out of the name and just call itself "Meet-Market-ersatz-Asian-food Joint". From a waitress who insisted that Lipton made real "Chinese" tea to dumplings roughly the size of quarters, to sushi that combined tastes never imagined in the known universe...meh!!

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While I have had passable sushi made by a Spanish "sushi chef", it just wasn't quite the same as having sushi made by someone who had grown up with sushi as commonplace fare.

Pretty slippery slope... Do you think this applies to other foods as well? As I am sure there are many, many folks working in the industry at very highly regarded places that did not grow up eating, cooking, or even thinking about the food they are now preparing.

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While I have had passable sushi made by a Spanish "sushi chef", it just wasn't quite the same as having sushi made by someone who had grown up with sushi as commonplace fare.
Pretty slippery slope... Do you think this applies to other foods as well? As I am sure there are many, many folks working in the industry at very highly regarded places that did not grow up eating, cooking, or even thinking about the food they are now preparing.

It is an interesting debate, a la "nature vs. nurture" ("nature" being what I assumed in the earlier post). But for anyone who argues in favor of nature, as happened recently in another thread, I have to relate the following example of a brilliant non-sequitur:

relative: [something along the lines of "thin asparagus is always more tender because it's picked before the spears can thicken"]

me: um, not really. The spear size is related to the variety of the plant; once they emerge from the ground the spears don't get wider.

relative: yes they do!

me: look, I've grown the things, they've don't.

relative: well, my brother-in-law said so, and he should know, 'cause he's Italian.

:rolleyes:

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I couldn't really care about the ethnicity of the people preparing the food, as long as it is good. My problem with the term "fusion" is that it usually means something more watered down and accessible.

Plus, if you call it fusion, that's an easy fall-back stance when you don't have the experience or training to prepare something properly.

As an aside, I happened to be driving through Hanover, PA yesterday and saw a place called, "Hot and Crusty, Mexican-Italian Fusion Grill."

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4 or 5 years ago, we went to Ten Penh to celebrate my birthday. I ordered a fish which was on top of kimchi. It sounded interesting when I read the menu. The fish tasted fine but what they called kimchi was not a real kimchi. It wasn't fermented at all and just put some red pepper flakes on napa cabbage. It also didn't match with the fish. The chef didn't need to create same kimchi as Koreans did but I hope that the restaurant doesn't mislead the customers with using a wrong terminology.

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As I am sure there are many, many folks working in the industry at very highly regarded places that did not grow up eating, cooking, or even thinking about the food they are now preparing.

Your theory could be applied for this: American chef for French or Italian cuisine. So far I haven't seen any Caucasian chef for ethnic cuisine, however, I know RJ Cooper can make great sashimi. :rolleyes:

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To me, the issue is not so much Asian Fusion (which to me denotes a level of thought and accomplishment, when done right) but all of the run-of-the-mill "pan-Asian" restaurants in this area. It seems to me to be a DC thing, and I think it's a dreadful trend. Sushi, kung-pao chicken, bulgogi and pad ka prao - it's like a place that has tacos, Maryland steamed crabs, wienerschnitzel and coq au vin all on the same menu. Blecch. Guaranteed, none of them will be any good.

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it's like a place that has tacos, Maryland steamed crabs, wienerschnitzel and coq au vin all on the same menu. Blecch. Guaranteed, none of them will be any good.
A different thing, obviously, but there are some dual-ethnicity restaurants that serve some pretty good food. For example, a Salvadoran restaurant that puts Mexican-style dishes on the menu for the gringos may have very good Salvadoran food. Or a Greek pizza joint with some pretty good Greek dishes along with lousy pizza and spaghetti with meatballs. There is, or was, a restaurant called New Moon on Wilson Blvd. a couple of blocks east of Eden Center that bills itself as Chinese-Mexican-Salvadoran. I never ate there, and have often wondered what it must be like. Since I find it hard to imagine Chinese people running a Salvadoran restaurant, and since we have a very small local Mexican population and a large Salvadoran one, I've always figured that it was run by Salvadorans, but it's also hard to imagine Salvadorans going to a Chinese place for Salvadoran food. I'm pretty sure there's no fusion going on there, though.
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To me, the issue is not so much Asian Fusion (which to me denotes a level of thought and accomplishment, when done right) but all of the run-of-the-mill "pan-Asian" restaurants in this area.

Bump. For me, I don't have a problem with somebody taking what they like about two distinctly different styles of cuisine and trying to integrate them. What I do have a problem with is putting a jiao-zi atop a beefsteak tomato and calling "fusion." That insults me on so many different levels. I guess if you're going to go out on an artistic limb and make something new out of a style that is very recognizable and heavily benchmarked, you're going to have to be creative enough as to disinvite comparisons with the original references.

What does everybody make of this: I was lucky enough in my past life as a musician to do a gig in Strasbourg, and for some reason the guys in the band wanted to eat at the Chinese restaurant across from the hotel over my strenous objections. As it turns out, it was fairly skillfully prepared; the sauces were a little thicker and creamier than most of my lactose-intolerant brethren would stand, but it was good. It was unmistakable as Chinese food, but there were also unmistakable hallmarks of French cuisine - so is French technique applied to Chinese dishes fusion, or regionality?

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As it turns out, it was fairly skillfully prepared; the sauces were a little thicker and creamier than most of my lactose-intolerant brethren would stand, but it was good. It was unmistakable as Chinese food, but there were also unmistakable hallmarks of French cuisine - so is French technique applied to Chinese dishes fusion, or regionality?

I would say neither. It sounds like playing to the taste of the area.

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