Chef Blaine Staniford. photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

Review: Fuse

We drove downtown to Fuse on a recent Tuesday night expecting good food and a decent scene. The host was all smiles as we followed him upstairs to a table in the bamboo-walled bar, and he presented our menus with a flourish, as if we were sitting down to dinner in the French Room. (Note to French Room folks: hire this person.) But the restaurant, open since 2005, feels like it’s struggling to maintain its funky, Asian-inspired vibe. Maybe because tables are filled with suit-and-tie convention types instead of hipsters. Or maybe because the sprawling, scene-y outdoor patio was closed for the winter. We ordered chef Blaine Staniford’s famous brisket pot stickers (even Rachael Ray has tried them!), but they were filled with only the tiniest bite of brisket, and the wrapper on one was uncooked. Spicy edamame gave us oily, rust-colored fingers, and was served in a huge, white bowl. (Another one, of equal size, was given to deposit the spent soybean pods.) We liked the Fuse roll, with snow crab, salmon, avocado, and veggies wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber instead of nori, but the albacore tuna sliced on top of the cobb salad was extremely fishy tasting. Our server (also wonderful) had raved about the braised Berkshire pork, and we were expecting juicy goodness. What came out was a brick of shredded, dry meat, with a tiny pool of jus underneath. We rubbed the Peruvian potatoes in the small amount of sauce, popped one into our mouth, and it had the consistency of a dry Shredded Wheat biscuit. The creamy grits saved the shrimp and grits, but by then we weren’t really hungry anymore. Our sweet server almost saved the day, by going against our wishes and bringing us dessert wontons plump with chocolate. Almost.

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