Lemongrass Fusion Cuisine
A new review of an old favorite.
Shrimp pad Thai at Lemongrass. Michael A. Foley/MAF Photography
I had mixed experiences at Lemongrass Fusion Cuisine, the longtime Thai restaurant in the Short North that was among the first places in the city to offer pan-Asian cuisine.
On one visit, the cooking was not very accurate: Many items were underdone and the food only lukewarm. On another trip, the cooking was fine. I guess any kitchen can have an off night. But, overall, I was disappointed because the flavors were pretty bland.
Starting with soups, I liked the one called Lemongrass: a spicy lemon broth with generous amounts of mushrooms, zucchini and tiny pasta shells. The Lemongrass salad was composed of a large portion of varied greens, with a topping of crisp noodles and pineapple and tangerine pieces in an OK dressing named, I suspect, for the restaurant rather than the ingredient.
As for appetizers, the veggie spring rolls were competent, although not particularly flavorful, but the splashes of hot mustard and tangerine sauce took care of that. Crab Rangoon was nicely crisp, but the cream cheese and seafood filling could have been richer. Chicken saté—grilled slices supposedly marinated in Thai curry power and coconut milk—didn’t pick up much flavor from the marinade. The menu said the crab cake contained “real crabmeat” as well as salmon, but I could detect no crab flavor.
And the pan-seared veggie dumplings were a failure: Instead of a dumpling wrapper, they were coated with a gummy and sticky covering of what might have been taro. Or not.
I was impressed, however, with two appetizers. The stuffed portobello was filled with layers of spinach, shrimp and cream cheese, then breaded and deep fried. It was substantial, savory and pretty. The seared tuna tartar was great. The lovely fresh tuna was cooked just right; it came with thin slices of avocado, a heap of red slaw, pickled ginger and topped with crisp noodles. Attractive, too.
The entrees weren’t particularly pleasing, especially the seared Cajun scallops, which were small, seriously undercooked and served on steamed rice with, again, seriously undercooked green beans. Cashew shrimp and scallops had the same flaws. Lemongrass’s version of pad Thai was made of the traditional ingredients, including crushed peanuts and a supposedly spicy lime sauce, but the flavor was thin and one-dimensional.
One of my companions asked a wait-person for a recommendation on the best item on the menu. It was seared tuna steak. The portion was large, but it had been “seared” until it was cooked gray all the way through. And the sauce—allegedly mint wasabi—did not contribute much flavor. As usual.
LEMONGRASS FUSION CUISINE
641 N. High St.
Price range: Soup $4-$5; salads $6-$16; appetizers $5-$10; entrees $13-$28.
Hours: Sunday and Monday 11:30 am to 10 pm and Tuesday through Saturday till 11:30 pm.
Rating: ** 1⁄2