Fusion Fest

The mix-and-match Asian cuisine menu at Wild Ginger features modestly tasty, if inelegant, fare.



Is Pan-Asian the new Thai? Restaurants featuring cuisine from across Asia seem to be proliferating. Some offer fusion fare: a dish may combine elements of Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and/or Thai cuisine, for example. Other Pan-Asian restaurants take the one-dish-at-a-time approach with authentic individual dishes from any one country. While hoity-toity foodies may disagree, we hedonists believe what really matters is the pleasure we get from the dining experience.

A hint of Wild Ginger’s approach is evidenced in the décor. Mustard-yellow and mottled watermelon rind-green walls serve as a backdrop for the contemporary and casual Asian-inspired décor; combined with the stone and tile surfaces (which keep the noise level high) one has the sense of something Asian, but not any one culture or country in particular.

So it is with much of the fare. Though a number of dishes are listed on the menu as Thai or Vietnamese, they share sauces or ingredients or even borrow from other cuisines.

The Vietnamese salad, for example, crisp and airy puffed rice noodles with strips of sweet-tart juicy mango, crunchy jicama, and greens was dressed in the same sweet-and- hot “sauce” that accompanied the far less appealing crab cakes. Whereas the salad was a lovely study in contrasting flavors and textures, the oversized Thai crab cakes tasted more like patties of unseasoned surimi (imitation crab) enhanced with just a little shredded crab—and served with that sweet-hot sauce.

“Mind eraser” sushi rolls are riceless, made with tuna, salmon, white tuna, avocado, king crab, and seaweed.

The mysteriously named riceless “mind eraser” sushi roll consisted of layers of fish—tuna, salmon, white tuna—with avocado and king crab and held together with seaweed. While we were disappointed the roll did not include the lobster and jalapeño as described on the menu, the fish was sweet, rich, and fresh, and the roll well made. The chef’s special sauce that accompanied the roll was a dead ringer for sriracha, the ubiquitous fiery Vietnamese condiment, and as such was too assertive for the fish.

Only Japanese elements were evident in the appetizer usuzukuri, which consisted of thinly sliced white fish sashimi-style with ponzu sauce. The light citrus sauce married well with the mild fish. And while it is unlikely that any Japanese restaurant would include a roll with spicy lobster salad in the middle, the Mars roll did just that, along with layers of tuna and salmon which offered clean-tasting contrast to the rich filling. This was fusion at its fun best.

Pad thai was also not authentic or typical, but the smoky char-grilled flavor lent depth to the noodle salad with a sweet sauce and an abundance of shrimp. Shrimp fried rice also included a generous amount of shrimp: nearly half the dish consisted of perfectly stir-fried shrimp, while the other half was lightly sauced rice with plenty of vegetables and egg.

Equally good fried rice (though obviously without the shrimp) accompanied half a perfectly cooked duck: the meat of the bird was moist and richly gamey in contrast to the sable-brown crisped and seasoned skin.

Diners with big appetites will delight in the Asian grilled chicken Wild Ginger. A nearly alarming portion of moist, tender pounded chicken breasts with a hint of sweet smokiness were mounded on a plate which also held crisp steamed bok choy, zucchini, and eggplant in a light coconut curry sauce.

The firewok was similarly enormous: stir-fried jumbo shrimp, a split lobster tail, and scallops were all cooked to just the right degree of doneness and served in a fairly typical mildly hot Thai lemongrass-coconut sauce.

Wok-glazed ginger dishes appear in two places on the fairly extensive menu, though the preparation seems to be the same. The light ginger hoisin glaze was an asset for two flavorful lobster tails accompanied by bland soba noodles; the same sauce was a little strong for milder (and perfectly cooked) moist, tender scallops. The same—or remarkably similar—sauce appeared again in the samba delight, which was a combination of prawns, scallops, chicken, and vegetables served in a sweet and spicy sauce. This combination, like the lobster, stood up well to the sauce.

While the menu is extensive, many dishes taste similar, with sauces and techniques repeated. There are a number of tasty dishes along the way, many of which share a tendency to feature sweet-and-spicy flavors. The flavors are not elegant: they are loud and unrefined, though often pleasantly so. Perhaps because of this, the accommodating wait staff will happily make substitutions when asked, and at times will even offer them. We found the servers to be uniformly friendly and eager to please, despite the demands on their time this busy restaurant seems to make.

Desserts, on the other hand, had little to redeem them. A neon-pink raspberry mousse cake was simply unpleasant, and ice cream and sorbet featured shards of ice. In this, we suppose, the restaurant is following the tradition of many mid-level Asian restaurants in the U.S.: considering desserts an afterthought.
 

 Wild Ginger

                      ★★

10 Park Pl, Bronxville

(914) 337-2198; wildgingerrestaurant.net

Hours: Mon to Thurs 12-10 mp, Fri and

Sat 12-11 pm, Sun 12:30-10 pm

Appetizers: $3.50-$12; entrees: $14-$22;

desserts:$8

 ★★★★—Outstanding      ★★★—Very Good 
   ★★—Good                       ★—Fair