286 Moody St., Waltham
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 -10 p.m.
Accessible to the handicapped
Major credit cards accepted
Ponzu, the latest fusion eatery to open in Waltham, bills itself as ``Far East & the Rest."
At the beginning of the menu, Ponzu's chefs invite guests to explore the Far East without boundaries, boasting chic sounding foods such as neo-curries, seafood taro pot, and fiery Portuguese baked fish.
But like many fusion restaurants, Ponzu tries too hard. So it ends up feeling more like an identity crisis than a melting pot of international foods. Its daring concoctions -- like Spicy Tuna Quesadillas ($8.25) -- are often less impressive than simpler selections.
As a new restaurant -- Ponzu opened about a month ago -- it still has some kinks to work out. The menus were obviously printed before the restaurant finalized its selections, leaving customers to be taunted by crossed-out offerings.
We began with the Indonesian Gado Gado ($7) -- a cold salad of jicama, cucumber, egg and bean sprouts in a peanut dressing. It has a great crunchy texture and is a refreshing way to start the meal.
The Crispy Salt and Pepper Calamari ($7.25) is shielded in a thick armor of fried dough that overwhelms the dish. The red and yellow peppers mixed in with the fried rings were the highlight. Avoid the tuna quesadillas, probably the biggest disappointment of the night. The concoction consisted of slabs of spicy raw tuna that kept slipping out of the tortilla shells.
The surprise gem of the evening was the Wasabi Crab Rangoon with Seafood ($7). The triangles of goodness were crispy without being greasy, and filled with gooey cheese spiked with wasabi and small bits of crab.
The Rings of Fire ($9) took us by surprise. Most tempura maki come with bits of fried tempura flakes on top of the roll. But Ponzu fried the entire California Maki and topped it with a lava of spicy mayo and flying fish caviar. The warm gooey avocado oozed from the Rings of Fire, making us wonder why warm avocado isn't in more meals.
The Banana Leaf Dried Curry Beef ($16) featured lots of heavily marinated beef slices -- enough meat for two people -- with hints of coconut from the rice. The Malaysian Indian Style Noodle Stir Fried with Seafood ($11) set us off on a treasure hunt for chunks of delicious sweet potato amid the mounds of noodles, calamari, shrimp, and juicy scallops.
Much like the food, the ambience at Ponzu was a bit inconsistent. The peaceful yellow walls and soft lights with cascading water contrast sharply with the huge metal pipes curled along the ceiling, and the banging pots and pans from the noisy open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant. Service was friendly and quick -- sometimes a bit too efficient, as waitresses took away dishes before we finished.
Ponzu offers a reasonably priced beer and wine list and a good selection of sake, including the delectable Pucchi Pucchi sparkling sake. Ponzu is eager to please, and with careful navigation of the fusion minefield, diners can find a tasty meal with unusual flavors at a decent price.