The new Ayres Hotel in Fountain Valley, just off the 405 Freeway at Brookhurst Street, is home to a delightful restaurant called Fusion Bites. And the name is an accurate description of the eclectic menu, which is filled with tapas-sized dishes full of imaginative and tasty fusion food.
The restaurant offers a culinary mélange of Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Thai, American, French, Mexican and Indian cuisine. Owner and chef Rosa Tong Heidler graduated from the Laguna Culinary Art Institute and then moved to Italy, where she got further training and graduated as a master of Italian cuisine. Returning to Los Angeles, she worked with renowned chefs Celestino Drago and Ian Gresik.
Fusion Bites has a clean, modern vibe. A wall of windows looks out onto another eating area and lounge with comfy sofas, a fire pit and attractive foliage. The interior has a central communal table, booths, bar seating and tables. Three of the booths have small flat-screen TVs, apparently to appeal to sports addicts and patrons who are bored with their dates.
My dining companion — also known as my husband — who grew up on chopped liver, is very fond of pate, and the restaurant's duck and liver version, classically French, was excellent. It was incredibly smooth and creamy, with no livery taste. It was served with onion fig jam and garlic confit — cloves of garlic that have been preserved in olive oil until tender.
The combination of sweet fig jam with the rich pate was sublime. On the side were slices of toasted baguette and big thin crackers.
We were curious about the potato egg rolls, which are fried egg roll skins stuffed with mashed potatoes. On the side was a pretty presentation of sour cream, chives and bits of bacon. A little bowl of truffle aioli was available for dipping. We could create our own combinations of bites.
The egg rolls were fun but needed something extra. We found the aioli to be bland, with very little garlic flavor, and the truffle oil imparted no real flavor either. These crunchy little rolls needed something better in the way of a sauce.
We liked the pho sliders a lot. Let me explain to those of you who know that pho is a Vietnamese soup with rice noodles, a variety of herbs and beef or chicken why the dish is called pho sliders. The meat is braised and seasoned with anise, cloves, ginger and fish sauce just as it is in the soup. The beef is then stuffed into steamed bao buns and topped with sprouts, thai basil, crispy thin strips of rice noodles and a splash of sriracha sauce for a final jolt of heat.
Our favorite of all the excellent bites we ate was the bowl of black mussels in a fabulous broth. The mussels were small and tender, and they rested in a broth of mussel juices, green curry, white wine, tomatoes, onions, garlic, chives and a hint of cream. We sopped up as much of the broth as we could with toasted crostini and resorted to spoons to finish it off.
Tahitian vanilla panna cotta was the most traditonal of all our selections. The cooked cream was served with fresh fruit compote and cookie crumbles and finished with a berry lychee coulis. It was less interesting than anything else we had. However, our other dessert was spot on.
Wonton apple pies are wonton skins filled with apples, seasoned with five-spice powder and then deep-fried. Salted caramel sauce was served in a little bowl on the side for dipping, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream finished off this tasty desert.
Fusion Bites also has a list of "bites" plus flatbread pizzas, charcuterie and cheeses, soups, salads and yakitori, as well as larger plates like sea urchin pasta and spice-encrusted seared ahi.
We are looking forward to returning and working our way through the menu.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Fusion Bites
WHERE: 17550 Brookhurst, Fountain Valley
WHEN: from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Fridays through Saturdays; and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays
Bites $3 to $15
Desserts: $6 to $7.50
Bottles: $30 to $95
By the glass: $8 to $12
Corkage Fee: $20
Go to fusion-bites.com or call (714) 861-5173