Monday, January 10, 2011

Now Open: Fusion Buffet in Westport

Posted By on Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM

click to enlarge Fried okra, fried corn nuggets, fried chicken!
  • Fried okra, fried corn nuggets, fried chicken!

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.

click to enlarge It's always a holiday at the Fusion Buffet.
  • It's always a holiday at the Fusion Buffet.
There's surimi galore on the buffet's steam tables: bacon-wrapped rumaki, crab pies and such. But my favorite creation here has to be the vat of vividly red steamed crawfish with a paper description taped to the sneeze guard: "small lobsters." If you say so, honey.

The decor is shiny (the little details, not so much). Beverages are served in such cheap waxed-paper cups that I was convinced my iced tea would be leaking out of the container long before I finished eating. (It didn't.)The plates and bowls are hard plastic, and the napkins are paper.

But it's easy to create a memorable -- and cheap -- meal here from the buffet selections, and I was impressed by the attention the staff gave to keeping the food on the steam tables fresh and hot. Patrons can also order traditional Chinese-American dishes from the menu.



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