Seattle food writer Sara Dickerman's recent contention that "fusion" is no longer a dirty word in culinary circles could bode well for an International District restaurant in the midst of a major redesign.
After a decade of serving a purely Vietnamese menu, Thanh Vi has eliminated half of its classic dishes to make room for ceviche, quesadillas and pasta with marina sauce. The Jackson Street restaurant is now testing new items, and plans to officially complete the transformation into Fusion World by next weekend.
"Hopefully we can make everybody happy," says chef Henry Pacheco. "I'm not trying to be a hero, but the restaurant really needed a makeover."
Various cuisines are unlikely to actually fuse at Fusion World: Pacheco doesn't intend to put hot Italian sausages in his adobo or serve a banh mi al pastor. But dishes from Vietnam, Mexico, Italy and the Philippines will share space on the menu.
"I've been asking the customers and they say 'I always come here for the soup, and sometimes when I want Mexican, I can't come here'," Pacheco says. "I think it will be better to have the choice."
The restaurant does much of its business in big parties, and Pacheco says it's especially difficult for a dozen relatives to agree on a cuisine. A more varied menu should help reduce food-based family squabbles, he says.
Pacheco, who's previously cheffed at Microsoft and a Holiday Inn in Anchorage, comes by his chosen global cuisines honestly. He still runs a restaurant in the Philippines; picked up Mexican techniques while training in one of Rick Bayless' kitchens and learned Italian cooking as an employee of Levy Restaurants, the food service company that handles CenturyLink Field concessions. He's worked three stints with Levy since 1989, and now serves as CenturyLink's culinary supervisor.
In addition to revamping the menu, Pacheco says he's focusing on service standards at the soon-to-emerge Fusion World.
When Pacheco last dined anonymously at the restaurant, "it was so bad because I didn't get any water," he says. "The Vietnamese got tea, and the non-Vietnamese didn't get any tea. I want to make sure everyone gets tea and everyone gets water. I'll try my best to make everybody happy."