2013-12-05 / Cuisine

Profusion of flavors achieve harmonious balance at FUSE

CUISINE

The term fusion has become synonymous with mixing and matching ingredients from divergent cuisines, whether or not someone in the kitchen knows how to do that in a way that makes sense. It isn’t simply a matter of tossing eastern and western together and stirring. One must first understand the underlying principles of individual cuisines before one can marry them successfully.

I’m happy to report that Greg Scarlatos, chef/owner of FUSE Global Cuisine (and former executive chef at Angelina’s Ristorante in Bonita Springs), gets it. He grasps how to mix flavors and ingredients — but perhaps more importantly, he also knows when to refrain from doing so.

As a result, his menu offers an intriguing array of dishes that will appeal to both adventurous palates and those who prefer a more traditional approach.

FUSE opened in mid-November in the former Paris Bistro (which wass Ama-Amador’s and, I believe, Maximo’s,, prior to that). Mr. Scarlatos and his fiancée/iancée/ business partner, Monica Czechowska, have done an artful job of creating a dining room that is a soothing study in earth tones, right down to the creamy marble-topped bar with its nicely upholstered high-top chairs in a rich chocolate color. Strategicallyy placed pendant lights in orangee hues add splashes of color.

Music — heavy on the Rat Packck during our visit — plays softly, audible but not so loud as to interfere with conversation. It is an entirely civilized and peaceful place in which to enjoy cocktails, a meal or both.

Try one of the accommodating bartender’s signature cocktails, choose from a list of craft beers or select something from the wine list (10 by the glass and 30 or so by the bottle). You’ll need that drink while you attempt to arrive at a decision on what to eat, as dishes are well described on the menu and each sounds more appealing than the one before.

For an appetizer, our server recommended the hog wings with sesame and green onions — that would be braised pork fore shanks that are fried crisp then tossed with chili garlic saucesauce, toasted sesame seeds and chopped green onions. While they sounded intriguing, a lighter start to the meal seemed in order. That also ruled out the fried duck mac and cheese with smoked tomato aioli and the fried artichoke hearts with remoulade.

Mussels ($10) and golden beet salad ($10) won out.

Our server delivered a good-sized bowl of Prince Edward Island mussels ($10) exuding an aroma that mingled the fresh tang of the sea with fragrant herbs and garlic. The shellfish were perfectly tender, and the buttered crostini accompanying them were just right for sopping up the savory broth.

The beet salad was a study in how just a few well-chosen ingredients can add up to a sum greater than their parts. The combinationcombinatio of pickled beets and creamy bucheron cheesec with a slightly crunchy brulee top studded with crunchy micro greens was simply smashing.

Choosing an entree isn’t easy here. Will it be togarashi seared tuna with lemongrass chili nage? Or perhaps crawfish and shrimp etouffee served on sticky black forbidden rice? Or a more traditional chicken scaloppini?

On this night, it would be pan-seared cobia ($32) and rack of lamb ($49).

The cobia was expertly prepared, then dressed in a huckleberry dulce gastrique (basically a vinegar and sugar reduction infused with huckleberries and wine) and served with caramelized mascarpone and sautéed wild mushrooms. The ingredients blended beautifully, and the purplish gastrique added lush color and sweet-tart berry taste to the dish.

The Colorado lamb chops were tender and juicy, set on a mound of Stilton potato hash and topped with a tart cherry glaze that perfectly complemented the lamb. The lovely green herbed cream sauce on the plate also paired well with the chops and the potatoes. Crisp Brussels sprouts finished off this masterful dish.

Desserts are house made, so we felt compelled to try these as well. The dark chocolate lava cake with strawberries and creme Anglaise ($7) was rich but not overly sweet and just the right size after such a substantial meal. But even better was the guava bread pudding ($8) that consisted of two wedges of soft bread pudding topped with syrup studded with bits of guava.

Service was excellent throughout our meal. That said, there were but three tables on this day after Thanksgiving. While our server was well versed on the menu and attentive throughout our meal, I cannot extrapolate from our meal what the experience might be like when things are busier, as I expect they will be once word gets out about this lovely, inventive new addition to the Naples dining scene. ¦

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