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Asian and South American-Inspired Fare at Fusion Taco

The duo at this downtown spot are getting people all hot and bothered.

The words and phrases used by my friend to describe the food are not fit to print. Suffice it to say that he wanted to do unmentionable things to the queso, and he wanted the lamb taco to do unmentionable things to him. This is the introduction I had to Fusion Taco.

I daresay Fusion Taco brings out the adventurer in all of us.

The first time I ate there, I found myself not necessarily agreeing with, but fully understanding, his sentiments. The curried lamb keema taco featuring a hard shell and gyro toppings like tomatoes and cucumber is set off by a drizzle of bright, creamy salsa verde, and the queso, well...It's still the processed yellow cheese that I know and love, but it's made more gourmet by the addition of heavy cream, ground chipotle peppers and Fusion Taco's spicy salsa, made fresh every day. It's thick, never runny or overly liquid. It sticks to chips, coating them with a layer of golden cheese so ideally spiced that I find it difficult to stop eating it once I've started.

That queso, as my buddy would say, is really f@#$¡%$ good.

The nachos at Fusion Taco include corn salsa and barbecued pork.
Troy Fields
The nachos at Fusion Taco include corn salsa and barbecued pork.

Location Info

Map

Fusion Taco

801 Congress St., Suite 101
Houston, TX 77002

Category: Restaurant > Asian Fusion

Region: Downtown/ Midtown

Details

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Chips and chili con queso: $3.95

Chinese BBQ Berkshire pork taco: $3.23

Seared duck taco: $4.50

Blackened tilapia taco: $3.46

Agedashi tofu taco: $3

Lamb keema taco: $3.92

Chicken-fried oyster taco: $4.16

Nachos: $10.95

Seared tuna kale salad: $12.01

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Not that the co-owner, Julia Sharaby, who runs the new brick-and-mortar location with her fiancé, David Grossman, would mind the crude but flattering endorsement. She's got a rock-and-roll vibe about her, even when she's sitting at the front counter taking care of business on her laptop or wiping down tables, a task many restaurant owners wouldn't deign to do. Grossman cuts a less colorful figure, but he's there, too, back in the kitchen dreaming up new dishes or behind the register recommending old favorites to guests.

The duo started Fusion Taco as a truck back in 2010, before the whole gourmet and fusion food truck thing really took off in Houston. The brick-and-mortar restaurant opened on Market Square in late July 2013, and it seems Sharaby and Grossman's unique brand of South American/Asian tacos is better suited to a non-mobile location, though the truck still makes appearances for private events and catering. The concept of filled-to-the-brim tacos with continental consideration lends itself well to sitting down with a cold beer or a glass of wine and enjoying a ­leisurely meal.

The move to a single, stable location has also allowed Sharaby and Grossman to expand the menu to include soups, salads, quesadillas and even a cheeseburger. The kale and mango salad with a citrusy ginger peanut dressing is particularly enticing. Served with a seared tuna steak, it's one heck of a meal, and healthy, too — perfect for the downtown business folk and University of Houston-Downtown crowds who have been filling up the space since day one.

Many taco joints — for Fusion Taco, though it's grown up, is still what I'd consider a "joint" — make the mistake of recycling sauces and ingredients, so each taco or dish ends up tasting somewhat the same. Fusion Taco does make use of the same condiments in multiple tacos, but the other elements are so singular that each dish has a clear vision and a crispness of flavor that sets it apart from everything else on the menu.

This clarity of vision is also what sets Fusion Taco apart from all the other taco places in Houston.
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Good luck choosing just one taco for lunch or dinner. Hell, good luck choosing two or three, because the menu lists ten variations on a taco, each description more mouthwatering than the next. With prices between $3 and $4.50 per taco, you can afford to do a proper tasting, which is what I did over the course of several days.

Even after trying them all, I can't pick a favorite, though I was pleasantly surprised by a number of them, including the Agedashi tofu taco, which I'd anticipated not liking because, well, who wants tofu when you can have seared duck? Fusion Taco truly earns its name with this dish, which features a large rectangle of tofu prepared in the traditional Japanese style: breaded, then fried. With it is a Napa cabbage slaw and wasabi aioli, with a strong hit of ginger as well. This is not your abuelita's taco, my friends.

Nor is the chicken-fried oyster, another favorite that's about as reminiscent of a po-boy as a kitten is of a lion, and yet there's a clear familial link. The oysters could almost be plucked out and served in a bowl of gumbo or scattered atop shredded lettuce in a po-boy, but instead, they're laid delicately in a taco on a bed of celery root slaw made with a creamy, slightly tangy sauce. Each gloriously crisp oyster is dotted with a squirt of Frank's Red Hot cayenne pepper sauce, which packs a vinegary heat not unlike wing sauce and Tabasco. It's just enough to set the tongue a-tingle, but not so much that you can't taste the soft, juicy oyster once you breach the chicken-fried shell.

Each of the tacos — except the lamb — is served in two corn tortillas, both of which are needed to contain the heft and juice in most of the varieties. They're necessary mainly as a conduit, though, because I found the tortillas don't really add much to the overall meal. They're lacking salt and a more pronounced corn flavor, which could have enhanced the Chinese BBQ Berkshire pork taco, for ­example.

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7 comments
matt906
matt906

When I went the food was bland and at 4 per taco, way over priced. 

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

If she's there I will take my business elsewhere, read some reviews the aforementioned stare is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes poor and downright abusive customer service. If you only got glared at, consider yourself lucky.

Jenandtonic
Jenandtonic

This was a well written and hunger inducing review. I need to make a point to visit soon.

del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

The pic of the The Nachos doesn't look too appetizing, sorry to say, even though they may be.

WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

Stopped by for lunch two weeks ago and had the Berkshire Pork tacos.  While tasty, the pork in each taco consisted of two large squarish chunks of meat.  It was impossible to eat them as tacos.  Had to disassemble and eat with fork.  The taste was good but it wasn't a taco.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@gossamersixteen  She was perfectly pleasant when I was there, and the food is totally worth it in my opinion. 

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@WestSideBob  That's a fair point. I attacked most of the tacos on the menu with a fork. They should provide chopsticks just to further the whole fusion thing :)

 
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