- 1240 E. 14th St., Des Moines, IA, 50316
- Overall User Rating:
- (8 ratings)
- 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
As the recession drones on and on, it pays to remember not only fine-dining restaurants with no corkage fees (e.g.: Azalea and Django), but also cheap restaurants with no corkage fees. Café Fuzion is one such spot — always a great place to head with a table full of friends and a few good bottles of wine.
Ambiance: Though located in a strip mall and filled with seemingly second-hand restaurant furniture, the snug, inviting spot eschews the usual uneventful hole-in-a-strip-mall ambiance. Tapping into the restaurant’s “fusion” theme, the décor fuses traditional Southeast Asian touches (golden dragons and Buddha figures) with mod, youthful touches, such as the ’70s retro-trend quadrants of mirrors on rich, red walls; energetic and unobtrusive electro-pop music and hip, young servers.
Menu: Look for Thai, Lao, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese cuisine, including stir fries, salads, soups, curries, fried rice and some hard-to-classify dishes, such as a pork chop in a lemongrass marinade. My vegetarian friends love this place; plenty of dishes star all the joys of such opulently spiced cuisines — minus the meat.
Little bites: The Fuzion sampler for two can easily kick off a meal for at least three diners, giving everyone a taste of some of the better appetizers, including the infinitely crisp and tightly wound firecracker shrimp rolls and the refreshing spring rolls, served with a trio of compare-and-contrast sauces — sweet, nutty and hot.
Big plates: We scored arguably the best Mongolian beef in town — glistening, chewy-in-a-good-way slices of beef with a dark-caramel sheen and a vaguely sweet, intriguingly spicy flavor, all flecked with crisp white and soft green onions.
The Green Curry here is always a treat, but while we have adored the “Furious Catfish” in the past, this visit brought a nicely fresh fish, but in a not-quite-angry-enough sauce (a smarty-pants table-mate dubbed it the “Obama Catfish”).
If your party is large, I always suggest ordering the restaurant’s signature Pad Thai for a sweet-nutty relief to some of the more fiery dishes at your table.
And always try at least one new item. This visit, we opted for the fascinating Fuzion Ribs, marinated short ribs cut long and thin and served with pickled vegetables and a fried egg. The ribs were customarily chewy (go ahead and consider them finger food, as the spoon and fork traditionally served with Southeast Asian food literally won’t cut it).
Bottom line: Beautifully exotic food at bargain prices.