Pinto1.jpg
Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"Fusion cuisine is big. Fusion cuisine is important. Fusion cuisine is smart. Fusion cuisine is gimpy and obtuse and lazy and

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Friday Food Porn: Amalgamation Nation

Pinto1.jpg
Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"Fusion cuisine is big. Fusion cuisine is important. Fusion cuisine is smart. Fusion cuisine is gimpy and obtuse and lazy and ridiculous--gastronomy 101 for the over-educated, travel-sick and hopelessly romantic white jacket--and a sin like blasphemy against the church of flavor.

Fusion cuisine is one of those things--like writing terrible poetry, moving to New York or getting tattoos of cartoon characters--that seems like a good idea, maybe even an important idea, when you're young.

For chefs, it's almost a rite of passage--a thing you do because you feel like you've invented it, because it feels like everything else has already been done. Young chefs like fusion because they're in love with ingredients and technique and live in daily, quaking fear of canon. They do it because there is always a moment when it seems like a tofu pot pie with tamarind syrup or duck liver mousse gyoza with balsamic reduction would be a good idea. Because until you taste it one or a hundred times, everything seems like a good idea."

From "Thai Me Up," this week's review of Pinto Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar--the new Broadway fusion restaurant and mutt-Asian one-stop for yakisoba, tom yum and tekka maki.

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Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"The Pinto Signature Maki is Pinto (the restaurant) defined by food. Listed among the sushi, coming from the short, overstocked sushi bar, it is (from the outside in), spicy tuna tartare with an honest kick of spice, planks of soft, buttery avocado and crisp cucumber, nori, a jumble of rice (pressed less expertly than I'd hoped, but nicely prepared), cross-cut yellowtail with a lovely texture and fresh, oily flavor, plucked leaves of cilantro, carefully sliced, quartered and peeled triangles of lime and massive piles of jalapeno slivers, mounded on like I'd won some sort of contest.

The Pinto Signature Maki is overwhelming, confused, aggressive with belligerent flavors all slugging it out, a little bit childish, joyous in its higgledy-piggledy mish-mash of Japanese and Thai and Mexican ingredients, original and strange.

It is also really, really tasty for about six bites, at which point something like oral jet lag sets in and the whole thing just becomes tiresome. It is a whiplash kind of thing, the difference between bold and exasperating coming in the space between bites and making you wonder what, exactly, it was you liked so much about it in the first place."

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Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"The Japanese curry with beef at Pinto tastes like an Indian curry mated uncomfortably with a can of Dinty Moore beef stew. Over rice, it almost feels in the mouth like a cheap, mama-made-this gumbo--with a gumbo's thickness and stickiness and bright bloom of flavor. The satay is satay, the miso soup just miso soup. There is a gentleness to the Thai yellow curry that I like--a sense of competence in the kitchen embodied in a medium-heat curry that tastes rounded and whole. I eat it with a spoon like soup because the rice, for some reason, has a grainy texture to it I don't like--white but tasting almost like brown, with a bready aftertaste and the sense that I am eating something healthy against my will.

The gyoza, though, are perfect--thin-skinned, pan-fried hot and fast so they can't suck up a gulp of grease, then presented all hot and crisp and crackling with a smooth filling of chicken and vegetable paste. Alone, they are excellent. And somehow, dipped in the "soy vinaigrette" that comes on the side, they are even better. They shouldn't be, but they are. It is one of those moments where fusion pays off."

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Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"Barely fusion, barely strange, it was nothing more than pad Thai topped with six tempura shrimp, plated simply and served. Under normal circumstances, I don't even like pad Thai. It's so overdone, so ubiquitous, that I will avoid it if there is anything else worth eating. At Pinto, though, it seemed a smart retreat, after course upon course of the non-traditional, to try a standard and see how it stacked up, to see how a kitchen that does the original both well and poorly by nothing more than subjective judgment would handle a classic dish for which there are a million possible comparisons."

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Photo courtesy Joshua Huston

"It is two kinds or restaurants in one, or maybe four: a Thai restaurant involved in some kind of high-speed collision with a fast-moving sushi bar, the inevitable tangle resulting in a mash-up (pure panang curry, pad see eiw and tom kha existing in discreet spaces, but rubbing up close against yakisoba with bonito, kanikama crab stick nigiri, futomaki, miso soup and gyoza) and, in the places where the wreckage becomes too entangled, too inseparable, a fusion bistro offering complete geo-social oddities like Samurai Pad Thai, Japanese curry stew, red mango maki with fruit salsa and mayonnaise and New York cheesecake topped with lychee syrup. There is no map that can define the boundaries of Pinto's catch-me-if-you-can menu. It is as international as some kind of psychotic Foreign Service lawn fete, as diverse as the line for the U.N. men's room after chili night in the canteen."

For more snaps from Pinto Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar, check out Joshua Huston's slideshow right here. And for more words, you can read the full review of Pinto over in the restaurant section here. Or you could just go and taste it all for yourself, which is why we've included this handy map.

You're welcome.

 
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