FUZION (580 Church, at Dundonald, 416-944-9888) Complete dinners for $75 per person (lunches $45), including all taxes, tip and a glass of wine. Average main $30/$17. Open for lunch Monday to Friday 11:30 am to 3 pm, dinner Sunday to Thursday 5 to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday 5 pm to midnight, except Thursday to Monday (June 26 to 30) noon to 3 am.Licensed. Access: seven steps at door, washrooms upstairs. Rating: NNNN
How can you say no to a gorgeous patio and a menu to match?
Restaurants in the Church Street village don’t tend to stick around. So high are the rents and so fierce is the competition, most are lucky to make it through their first year.
The impressive Victorian mansion on the corner of Dundonald – once the residence of department store honcho Robert Simpson – has been the home of several resto flops. Anyone remember Robert’s, the Mango, Le Petit Liban or the truly diabolical Diablo? Thought not.
Despite the zany spelling, current occupant Fuzion has gone further than most: year two. True, it hasn’t been easy. Original chef Patrick Wiese – who left his gig in Chicago as Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef to help launch the swanky supper club – split last March. And to the dismay of cheapskate queers, Fuzion’s price points make Il Fornello feel like Fran’s.
But come summer, fine-dinin’ Fuzion explodes onto the street with one of the loveliest garden terraces in town. As tall, white-barked birches whisper above, diners lounge on stylish low-slung chaises while trellises hung with heavy drapery create private candlelit pavilions. It’s as if South Beach had landed on the 519.
That’s where you’ll find the Literary Device and me this balmy Friday afternoon, shooting the breeze and knocking back muddled raspberry mojitos ($8). Surprisingly, despite the gorgeous weather, we’re Fuzion’s only customers.
Since Weise’s departure, Sam Girgis (ex-Lure, and most recently Oro) has assumed the kitchen duties, adding a more Mediterranean focus to Fuzion’s East-meets-West fusion card. See it most spectacularly in his superb crab and prawn soup ($8 lunch/$11 dinner), a robust roasted red pepper broth swimming with seafood, spring vegetables, al dente white beans and tubetti. Laced with lime leaf and zapped with red chilies, it’s Italian minestrone by way of Southeast Asia.
Everybody seems to be doing beet salad these days, but Girgis takes a different route, first roasting them in salt before plating them thinly sliced over mesclun and Parmesan ’n’ pistachio cornbread ($11/$12). He doesn’t stop there, adding a dollop of whipped smoked ricotta mousse as well as a red beet parfait, red beet gelée and a final toss of nasturtium petals. Over the top, but delicious.
Fuzion’s eponymous Club ($17) comes generously stacked on house-baked focaccia with heirloom yellow tomato, double-smoked bacon, leafy arugula and expertly poached prawn and Dungeness crab. Accompanying Yukon Gold frites are cookbook-correct, refreshingly under-salted and served with a piquant red pepper aioli.
Described on the menu as a croque monsieur, Fuzion’s pickled Kobe beef brisket and aged cheddar sandwich ($15) is more a gloriously fatty Reuben, the sauerkraut replaced by a tangy slaw of mustardy fennel and horseradish. We’d like its side salad of baby new potatoes even better if it didn’t come in the identical dressing.
Our thoroughly professional server, Elise Phillips, despite a case of first-day jitters, made a memorable meal even more so. Oh, that more beaneries hired staff of her calibre.
Intriguing food, a fabulous setting and just up the street from the Barn. Does Pride get any better?