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Cheap eats

A fusion of Asian flavors in Arlington

(Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / February 3, 2010

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This Arlington dining room has been a revolving door lately for a succession of Asian fusion restaurants. Viet’s Cafe was first, a quiet favorite in this space. It was replaced by Mifune, which hung on for a few years until Fusion Taste took over last fall. We arrive at the newest occupant with low expectations. How nice, then, to be surprised: This restaurant serves excellent sushi, including unforgettable toro, or fatty tuna.

The square dining room in this Japanese-Chinese restaurant is dimly lighted and modern; one wall glows unexpectedly with pink light, ascending from a row of wine bottles. On a weekend night, the bar is full. The owners, who also run Sato II in Stoneham and Fusion House in Methuen, have hired friendly waitresses who make clear, sometimes a bit too effusively, that they would love for you to come back.

The best part of our meal comes early: nigiri toro ($10.95), slabs of fatty tuna draped across a finger of rice. The toro is a special, available only part of the year, and it is excellent, so smooth and tender that it is almost buttery. We try it on our next visit and it is once again stellar.

Peppery, crispy soft-shell crab appetizer ($9.95) is listed on the menu with the admonition “Must try!’’ and so we do. It arrives huge and battered - the menu states stir-fried, but this is clearly deep-fried - and legs splayed. Pepper gives an edge to the already happy sweet-salty combination of the crab.

Volcano maki ($8.50) is made with very good unagi, or eel, but the spicy mayo is a distraction. “Vegetable vegetable’’ ($8.25) is a benign disappointment. Carrots and broccoli and other vegetables are nicely cooked but they seem more like the ubiquitous “dieter’s special’’ on the menus of Chinese restaurants: steamed vegetables alone on a plate. The dish comes with a white sauce devoid of both substance and taste. On our next visit, we try eggplant with garlic sauce (below, $8.25), a better vegetarian choice. The eggplant is cooked gently enough so it doesn’t melt into the garlic sauce, and crisp broccoli is a nice addition.

One night, our waitress brings our preschooler a pair of chopsticks, rigged with a rolled up piece of paper and a rubber band, so that grasping sushi is much easier for small hands. She also delivers folding paper umbrellas for his apple juice; this is endlessly fascinating stuff for a 4-year-old. Simple offerings, and yet they suggest that someone here pays attention to small details. Happy children = happy parents. Or, more to the point, parents who will return.

FUSION TASTE 303-305 Broadway, Arlington, 781-641-2388. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices Sushi $3.25-$14.95, entrees $7.25-$15.95.

Hours Mon-Thu 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11-11, Sun 11:30 a.m.- 10 p.m.

Liquor Full bar.

May we suggest Toro nigiri, peppery, crispy soft-shell crab, volcano maki, eggplant with garlic sauce.

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