Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mandala Iki: Boo For Fusion

For many people, myself included, the food category "fusion" conjures up disturbing images of vindaloo xiaolongbao and miso-glazed New York strips. A concept that exploded in the Eighties, fusion cuisine is now passé and sets off gastronomical warning bells for most foodies. This is not to say that the combination of ingredients and flavours from dissimilar cultures cannot result in creative and enjoyable dishes, but the term "fusion" has been tarnished by many culinary experiments gone awry.

I recently dined Mandala Iki Asian Bistro, at 2394 West 4th Avenue, with co-workers and was totally disturbed by the dishes served and the inattentive service. Mandala is popular because it serves brown rice sushi (which I find disturbing in and of itself!), but it also serves a slew of fusion disasters and pan-Asian classics such as sate and chow mein. To give Mandala a break, it does not market itself as a fusion restaurant. Having said this, I cannot think of anything that this establishment is doing well. Our large group of ten ordered everything from pad thai to fried rice, and every single person stated that their meal was bland and sloppily prepared. I was the poor soul who ordered the ketchup-laden, octopus-packed pad thai. This single dish has turned me off Thai food for the time being, and I freakin' love Thai food. The fried rice wasn't fried, and the Chinese dishes were wet with cornstarch slurry.

Mandala is trying to offer a menu similar to those found at the Red Door and the Flying Tiger (which is actually just a few blocks west). These two restaurants serve pan-Asian fare as well,  in addition to the occasional "fusion dish", but the chefs at these two restaurants clearly know how cook within each culinary tradition.

I found the above picture on the web and thought it visually demonstrated how bad fusion can get: motoyaki escargot!

Keywords: "Alex Dawkins Vancouver", "Sushi Vancouver"

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