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Sep 9, 2009 01:15 PM

I love it when restaurants play "fast and loose" with regional cuisines but I know it doesn't sit well with some others.

I saw a thread this morning where someone was talking about a sushi restaurant that had Mexican cooks and they were adding some Mexican elements, i.e., hot peppers, to some of the food. He was praising that and I thought 'wow, how good that sounds.' Then there was another thread where a CH was very NOT admiring of a Tex-Mex restaurant that used feta in one of their dishes. REALLY not pleased. Recently we dined with two CHs in NYC. One resto was Itzocan on the UES which serves Mexican ingredients prepared with French techniques. It was terrific. We also had lunch at Momofuku Ssam with a CH where the sky's the limit with his combinations. Their "pork bun" is unlikely any I'd ever seen and I could have easily eaten several of them.

The above examples got me to thinking - always dangerous. I really love it when they start "mixin' things up." Sure, there are times I want a beef burger medium rare with mayo, Cheddar cheese and red onion on it. But I'll also gladly take a burger with foie gras in the center or the Mar-a-Lago turkey burger. In thinking about this, I guess the whole "fusion" thing from the past is simply part of a lot of the great cooking that's going on today. And I'm happy for it. I don't read the same books over and over; why would I want to eat the same food prepared the same way every time? I've really racked my brain trying to think of a single dish that I wouldn't like done in some alternative ways and am just not coming up with anything. Not every single time but plenty of times. But I crave adventures and change in my life.

So do others consider certain foods and preps sacrosanct or can they be fiddled with?

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  1. I wish more fusion restaurants were better. Alas, it almost always pales in comparison to 'straight-up' cuisine. In most cases, the savoriness, spiciness, and the uniqueness of a dish is 'bred' out of it when it is fused.

    However, the best papusa I've ever had was a pumpkin papusa served at an American seafood restaurant. Keep in mind that in many kitchens where I live, the food is prepped by Salvadorans no matter the nature of the restaurant.

    1. We appear to have similar tastes. Mix a few Indian spices in a pork burger, blitzed sauerkraut as a soup base, smoked chicken cordon blue, turnip cake with jam, deep fried battered tomatoes, avocado gravy, freedom fries with Vietnamese sweet spring roll dipping sauce. My cerviche and gazpacho usually involve Angostura bitters. I tried poaching chicken in Baileys the other day.

      Not all of my experiments are successful.

      I'm sorry, but no culinary tradition is sacred chez here in this centre for esculent blasphemy.

      1. There is a restaurant in Boston that we like quite alot. Myers and Chang serves up Asian food with often a real twist . It bills itself as leaning to Taiwanese and SE Asian street food but a couple of examples that are pure genius are " asian braised short rib taco" ( OMG) ,"sweet potato fritters with chinese sausage and spicy aioli" and last night they had grilled octopus over grilled corn on the cob with a cayenne spiked cheese sauce and spears of grilled scallion .. reminiscent of Mexican street corn...It was brilliant and their food is always alot of fun with bright fresh and surprising flavors...

        1. I think there's fiddling that puts a chef's spin on an identified regional dish - and there's fiddling that turns it into a travesty.

          1. Well gosh... I would not do honor to my moniker of "foodfuser" except to say "Yep."

            Evolution, in all things, is a universal imperative. It takes its form in the kitchen with a cook (home or resto) adding to and moving forward from his experience from the past, adding new ingredients from the now universal array of identified culturally traditions.

            Yet, any discipline of study, including the culinary, should respect the "traditional" roots, preserving the history of each regional cuisine. Fusion without preserving the availibility of tradtional recipes is not good evolution.

            In same vein, I also respect the right of any individual to defend the traditional dishes of their youth, as in my posts in adamant defense of mid 20th century Pimento Cheese.

            There is room for both the respect of the traditional cuisine and the forward fusion.