By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
Basically, Fúsha has two prix-fixe menus, each priced for two diners. The first includes a cheese fondue course, an intermezzo salad, and then a meat fondue course that includes tidbits of boneless chicken breast, tiger shrimp, and New York strip. The second is identical, but filet mignon is added to the meat course. À la carte options -- chicken only, for instance -- are available upon request, or you can enjoy a successive series of cheese fondues (they serve two people at $14 each, with an extra charge of $4 per person). But the gamut is worth running, both gastronomically and economically.
Once you decide on the menu level, the compromises come into play, as does a bit of math. The tables generally have one burner in the center, which means that groups must agree on the choice of cheese fondues, which number eight: classic Swiss, classic cheddar, Baja, Southwestern tomatillo salsa, ginger curry, sun-dried tomato pizza, smoked cheddar and hard cider, and Caribbean habanero chili. All are prepared tableside with some sort of alcohol (12-steppers, step away), cheese, and various spices or flavorings. Fondues are accompanied by a smattering of raw broccoli, cauliflower, grapes, apple slices, sectioned green bell peppers, and chunks of bread, which diners spear and then dip in the cheese mixture.
We were a party big enough to warrant two tables put together, which means we had a pair of burners, and ordered the ginger curry and Southwestern tomatillo salsa fondues accordingly. The first, shredded cheddar cheese melted into lager, boasted a nice mild blend of curry and ginger flavors, underscored by a hint of mango. The second, a more-assertive pepper jack cheese, was enhanced by Mexican beer and tomatillo salsa. While we thought the servings a bit on the puny side -- the bread alone would have led Hansel and Gretel only about a third of the way into the forest -- we enjoyed the richness of the blends. Try not to dwell on the size, as freshly tossed field greens partnered with homemade Maytag blue cheese, Champagne vinaigrette, or raspberry vinaigrette are directly on the way.
Second verse, same as the first: The cooking method -- low sodium chicken broth; cholesterol-free canola oil with seasonings; or "the favorite," chicken broth with Burgundy, garlic, mushrooms, and assorted vegetables -- must be unanimously selected. We steered clear of the healthier choices, relying on the so-called French paradox (wine negates cholesterol) to keep us in shape, and went for "the favorite." Once the liquid is heated to a sufficient cooking temperature, the server brings out a triple tier of meats, fresh plates and fondue forks, and a timer, along with a little advice: Cook beef and shrimp for about 40 seconds, but make sure to use the three-minute timer for the chicken. Never put a "spork" in your mouth; put cooked food first on your plate to cut back on both burns and germs. And be generous with the sauces: mango barbecue for the chicken, béarnaise and Chantilly for the meats, stone crab and cocktail for the shrimp.
We found everything from meat to condiment to be high in quality and flavor. Some of us quibbled over quantity, but Fúsha isn't a steak house. Don't expect to walk away overstuffed as a potato. If you're still hungry after the main course (there are no starchy side dishes, FYI), salivate over the desserts, all of which are fondues -- Amaretto dream, coconut rum, chocolate mint, caramel apple -- served with strawberries, grapes, succulent angel food cake, and the gooiest brownies, topped with marshmallows, that I've had in quite a while. We adored the espresso double chocolate fondue, which contained the perfect touch of bitterness, but found the white chocolate-raspberry swirl concoction to be a little on the thick side.
A puff or two on the hookah caps the evening, even if you're not a smoker -- the fruit-laced tobaccos are so mild you don't even feel a burning in your lungs. Of course, that disappointed one member of my party, who insisted on calling the server packing and lighting the hookah "Spicoli" and wanted to know where Fúsha was keeping the "real stuff." To that end, at least, I would imagine that no one would mind assessing the best that California has to offer.