John Tesar is a damn great chef. He is also as adept at navigating social media as he is the nuances of aging meat and fine seafood. His knack for promotion via Twitter and Facebook has, in the eyes of others in the restaurant industry, given them permission to flex their muscles. Where Tesar has succeeded, most others have bombed.
Fusion Taco in Houston, a food truck that went brick-and-mortar in 2013, is one such case. Co-owner Julia Sharaby, reportedly having taken issue with a perceived dis from Alison Cook and being left off the Houston Chronicle restaurant critic’s Top 100 Restaurants list, let loose her fury. It was noted by a couple of food blogs, but that was it. Flash and fizzle. The food at Fusion Taco is much the same.
The taco I was most looking forward to was the lamb keema, a spin on the fragrant South Asian dish of mutton studded with peas and potatoes in a blistered hard shell. At Fusion Taco, the filling is brightened with a pile of tomatoes and cucumbers and drowned in yogurt-based raita. The shell, shaped much like an overstuffed pita, had a good crunch, but the rest was a biting, sweet mess that reduced the lamb to textural element. The seared duck was a pretty thing resting atop a wet slaw bed.
Not all was lost, though. A taco of agedashi tofu (a Japanese preparation of starch-crusted firm tofu) replaces the dish’s traditional tentsuyu broth with a peanut satay dressing. This is Fusion Taco making an effort to accomplish their mission of gourmet Asian-style tacos—their “East Meets Street”—and doing so adequately. The base of cabbage somehow doesn’t turn the tofu’s casing to mush and texture and flavor, savory and sweet, play nicely.
The tofu taco resists the temptation of going bold, something I wish the other tacos did. If Sharaby and her partner, David Grossman, want to make a statement they might consider replacing wild pairings that attempt to kick and stab at the palate with subtle, well-considered matches like the agedashi taco and satay.
801 Congress Ave.
Houston, TX 77002