This year brought a victory for Hong Ngov and Sean Yean.
That brought a new chapter that afforded them creative license to add and subtract from the menu.
Included in that experimenting is a focus on gluten-free dishes. The couple also developed a special menu for a local group following the 30/10 diet program. (I’ve never heard of another Tacoma restaurant doing that.)
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A few months ago, the couple added a gluten-free Saigon crepe that I’m declaring the best gluten-free item I ate in 2017. The crepe is a wrapper concocted from sticky rice flour, said Ngov.
I found it more substantial than similar banh xeo in Tacoma’s Lincoln District.
Their version came with a delicate chewy resistance, plus the usual accompaniments of fresh herbs and bean sprouts. It was served with an addictive house-made dipping sauce that tasted as sweet as it was pungent. It’s described as an appetizer, but eats like a meal ($12.95). Gluten? Who needs gluten.
While scanning the menu for that crepe, I noticed something else Ngov mentioned by phone earlier in the fall: They were experimenting with new soups.
And, boy have they.
Consider their new soups twists on familiar Asian flavors.
I’ve heard Fuzion Cafe called a Thai restaurant, a remnant of the legacy of the Ngov family, which has operated Thai (and other) restaurants for more than 20 years in the area.
Sister Ly Ngov operates downtown Tacoma’s Indochine Asian Dining Lounge with husband Russel Brunton. Sister Buoy Ngov and husband Vathunyu “Yu” Nanakornphanom operate Indo Asian Street Eatery in the Stadium neighborhood and will open Moshi Moshi Bar + Ramen next year.
The sisters are second-generation restaurateurs. Their parents, Kim Taing and Chhung Ngov, opened the original Indochine Thai restaurant in Federal Way in 1995.
Hong Ngov and Yean also operate Indochine on Pearl, which stays closer to Southeast Asian territory.
At Fuzion Cafe, Ngov and Yean have plucked dishes from a broader swath of Asia. They call their menu “the melting pot of Asia.”
Need soup? Here are three to try. They’re $12.95 each and built for sharing or an entree.
Wonton noodle soup
What’s better than one kind of carb sunk into a soup? How about two? This soup paired handmade wontons with egg noodles.
The wontons were shumai-style dumplings made by Ngov’s mother, who also is the seamstress who makes the curtains for the family’s restaurants.
The delicate wonton wrapper broke to ginger-scented pork and shrimp. The dumplings settled deep into the bowl with a chewy tangle of egg noodles and crunchy carrots and mushrooms.
The broth was like the velvety cousin of pho with an anise-spiked beef-bone broth that Ngov said they simmer for 48 hours. If offered the condiment tray, add both sauces liberally. One tasted like a deeply-flavored hoisin. The other was a pungent chile sauce with tang.
Vietnamese noodle soup
This was another soup built with a bone broth cooked from seared beef that had been pressure cooked for a full two days, said Ngov.
“It’s similar to a pho,” she said.
I wish every pho tasted like this. The broth tasted satisfying and tangy with a citrus note from the raft of coriander floating on top. Snappy zucchini and onions filled the bowl along with thin rice noodles. Get it with any meat offered, but I preferred beef.
Spicy noodle soup
I could taste the galanga before first bite. The heady scent of the rhizome, which is like the luscious, more fragrant relative of ginger, floated up from the bowl.
I spotted a broad slice of the root, plus sliced lemongrass that added to the citrusy tone punctuated by a heavy layer of spicing.
Did I detect lime leaves? Those were in there, too, said Ngov. The acidity increased with the addition of halved tomatoes. The soup was served with rice noodles, plus zucchini, onions and mushrooms. My suggestion: Order it with chicken.
Add these winter soups to your must-try menu. Find them at this restaurant
Where: 6802 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 4-9 p.m. Saturdays