What's that old expression -- "You can't be all things to all people"? Well, damn it, you can try, and that's the concept behind restaurateur Huang Lin's new Fusion Buffet in Westport.
Lin took over the vacant Hollywood Video location and spent a lot of money transforming the space into the most glamorous Asian buffet this side of Las Vegas.
And there's something for everyone.
The Fusion Buffet opened on New Year's Eve and is different from the plethora of other Chinese buffets in this neighborhood because it "fuses" the culinary traditions of Japan, the American South (fried okra, fried corn nuggets, fried chicken nuggets, Jell-O cubes), a hint of Italian (bad garlic toast) and China and Mongolia (as in the Mongolian grill concept). There's still a little confusion about this particular cooking technique.
Like other local Mongolian grills, the Fusion Buffet devotes a station to ingredients -- frozen chicken, beef, seafood (fake crab is a very big deal at the Fusion Buffet) -- that diners can pile into a bowl. The bowl is handed off to a sullen cook in front of a white-hot grill, who stir-fries the concoction with various sauces and spices.
There can be a failure to communicate here. Without so much as a nod in my direction, the grill cook who took my bowl one recent day tossed my ingredients into a mesh basket for steaming, then dumped everything into a bowl of chicken broth. Not what I expected, but I actually enjoyed my bowl of cilantro chicken-noodle soup far more than I would have liked the very same ingredients freshly grilled.
The Mongolian grill is near the sushi station, which had, the day I went, an impressive array of rolls and nigiri-zushi. When I asked my server if the crab was real, she smiled beautifully and shook her head, as if I were speaking to her in Esperanto.