Asian Fusion in Boston

Boston is a hot restaurant town these days. We may not be able to compete with New York in terms of size or variety, but we’re holding our own in a few exciting areas of world cuisine. Lately I’ve had the chance to try a couple of different trendy spots in the area of Asian fusion.

This new category has faced its share of controversy. Some purists only want the authentic Chinese or Vietnamese or Japanese eating experience; blending it with American or French styles ends up watering down the whole menu, “Americanizing” it. I’d agree that Asian fusion restaurants aren’t capturing the authentic, traditional cuisine of their countries, but food has always benefitted from the sharing of culture and tradition across national lines. What we think of as mediterranean food, for example, is an exciting melange of Spanish, French, Greek, North African, Turkish and other influences. So why can’t Asian food continue to update itself and be informed by the cultures it rubs shoulders with? I’m excited to report what I found at Myers and Chang and at Blue Dragon.

First, Myers and Chang is a restaurant in the south end whose founders are better known for their baking. The owners of this restaurant started the wildly popular bakery and lunch spot Flour. I’ve gone many times to their Central Square location and enjoyed the tarts, pies, and scones, so I thought it was time to try their Chinese Dim Sum-inspired restaurant. The menu is eclectic and exciting; you get a series of small plates, and if are paralyzed by too many decisions, can order a grouped series, such as the health-conscious dishes or the duck-lover’s dishes.

We went for a little of everything; standouts included the squid stuffed with lamb, salmon and brown rice (wonderfully flavorful), bitter bok choy, and spicy pork spring rolls. Everything we tried tasted strongly of unusual mixes of flavors, both evoking Chinese dishes and with an extra touch of American style greasiness and home comfort.

The other tapas-style Asian fusion restaurant I visited recently was Ming Tsai’s Blue Dragon. This is a smaller, more casual pub-style restaurant near south station that is a kind of spin-off of his much-loved Blue Ginger. Ming Tsai has been all over public television with his cooking shows, and his dishes live up to the hype; every dish is a surprising blend of flavors, lovingly prepared, startling and tasty. Some favorites of mine included the terrific bison burgers, Thai fried rice, juicy slim slices of duck breast, soft shell crab sandwiches, shrimp shumai, and tuna tartare. I couldn’t rave about the flavors of Blue Dragon enough; everything felt like discovering a new season of taste. The key word there is season, though; the menu is seasonal and changes frequently. So go, but be ready to be surprised by what’s on the menu.

There’s nothing like discovering a new, very different restaurant; it’s one of the pleasures of life to explore new flavors. What restaurants have inspired you lately?

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