TNT Diner

First tries: Fuzion Cafe and Point Defiance Tap and Grill

FUZION CAFE

I recently popped in to sample the latest restaurant from Hong Ngov and Sean Yean, who own Indochine on Pearl. (Ngov’s sister, Ly, owns sister restaurant Indochine Asian Dining Lounge in downtown Tacoma with her husband, Russel Brunton.)

Fuzion Cafe, a 55-seat casual restaurant with a Southeast Asian menu, opened in mid-October in the Narrows neighborhood.

Three things to try from the menu:

Grilled lamb satay, $11.95. Tender lamb didn’t taste too gamey, with a delicate chewiness that outshines most beef satays. It was licked with green curry, and the skewers were served with a curry-tinged peanut sauce.

Spicy hot wings, $9.95. I usually ignore chicken wing appetizers and fried calamari, both of which seem to exist solely as dip vessels. But not here. At Fuzion, the chicken wings came coated in a garlic-chili sauce, but it was the texture that received table raves. Crunchy battered wings broke to a steamy, silky interior. Add these to your list of must-try chicken wings, along with the spicy-sweet Hawks wings with cabbage-blue cheese slaw at downtown Tacoma’s Pacific Grill ($7.50, on the happy hour menu).

Toasted sesame wraps ($13.95). A sweet-salty mixture of chicken (or tofu) with mangoes and cashews, served with a flaky flatbread for dipping and scooping. That delicious bread is tough to find in Tacoma. It’s a version of roti canai, the buttery Malaysian flatbread used as a base for wraps or served with a dipping sauce.

Find Fuzion: 6820 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-267-1566. Across the street and a block from Pao’s Donuts.

POINT DEFIANCE TAP AND GRILL

Here’s what I learned from a first-bite trip to Point Defiance Tap and Grill, which opened about a month ago in Ruston, across the street from the Antique Sandwich Company.

Sandwiches: Burgers comprise the bulk of the menu, and they are better than your average pub burger. A partial list: Find a duck burger ($14), lamb burger ($13), Tillamook cheeseburger ($12) and a beef burger topped with oysters ($14). Sandwiches include an oyster po’boy ($14), grilled gouda cheese with a short rib filling ($13), chicken-tarragon salad sandwich ($10) and a fried fishwich with house-made pickles ($12). Sandwiches come with skin-on fries (a thinner cut) or a house salad.

Appetizers: A short appetizer list ($8-$12). Five salads ($10-$14), a few soup options ($5-$10), and a build-your-own cheese plate ($18 for three cheeses).

Kids food, too? Yes, there is a menu for children, priced $6-$8.

Is it really local? The restaurant bills itself as a place to find local foods. And it appears that’s not just lip service. Find duck from Tacoma’s Calendula Farms. The menu said the chicken is from Draper Valley Farms, which has farms from Lynden to Oregon City. Eggs came from Yelm’s Stiebrs Farms.

No Coke or Pepsi: You won’t find me complaining about the absence of mainstream soda. Instead, the restaurant lists Dry Soda, which makes low-calorie, low-sugar sodas. Dry Soda is now a Seattle-based business, but founder Sharelle Klause started Dry Soda out of her North End Tacoma home. Valhalla Coffee is the house coffee.

Tap list: All Northwest beers, all the time. A 16-tap list included a robust showing of South Sound beers, including brews from Harmon Brewing, 7 Seas, Northwest Brewing, Sound Brewing and Silver City. For wine, find only Washington and Oregon bottles.

Fine tuning: This spot felt like more of a please-can-I-get-some-service pub than a table-service restaurant with its act together. Servers were hospitable, but could use additional training. A visit extended far beyond what it should have because of either clumsy service or a disorganized kitchen. Dishes were brought out of order, with the appetizer appearing after entrees. But then long gaps between table visits left us wanting to fill our own water glasses.

Above-market prices: Burgers and sandwiches are in the $12-$14 range, but the higher prices are understandable because of the expense of buying products from small farms. I did balk at $8 for five deviled egg halves, though.

Find the restaurant: 5101 N. Pearl St., Tacoma; 253-426-1593.

Also try: Co-owner Bill Bonnie also operates Enoteca and Tacoma Wine Merchants in the Stadium neighborhood.

Ruston tip: Two newcomers are trying to reopen the old Goldfish Tavern in Ruston. I’ll have more details after the duo secures financing for the project.

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