New Café Adds Authentic Taiwanese Fare to Asiatown Offerings

Add Taiwanese food to the wide variety of Asian offerings crammed into tiny Golden Plaza, home to the Vietnamese-themed Superior Pho and the Korean-based Ha Ahn. A few months back, Phusion Café (3030 Superior Ave., 216-861-3399) opened up shop in the odd and underutilized space upfront that once was home to Just Like Mom’s.

While Asiatown is stocked with restaurants dispensing all matter of Asian cuisine, including those that specialize in Chinese styles like Cantonese, Hunan and Szechuan, few or none are devoted specifically to the foods of Taiwan. That no longer is the case thanks to the owners of Phusion, who combine the cuisine on the menu with more common Chinese foods.

While unconventional, the space has been reworked to make it feel less like a lobby and more like a dining room. All the restaurant equipment and display coolers were removed, freeing up space for about 32 diners. A short wall separates the dining room from the main passageway that people use to move through the small mall.

Flavorful Taiwanese-style beef noodle soup ($7.95), a version very different from Vietnamese bun bo hue and certainly pho, has been one of the main draws here. But the Tainan “Peddler” noodle soup ($6.95) also is remarkable. Dense, chewy noodles sit in a flavorful broth made from pork and shrimp. The bowl also contains bright, crisp bok choy, poached shrimp, ground pork and crispy fried onions.

Three Cups chicken ($12.95), another Taiwanese classic, is named for the equal parts sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine in the sauce. But the dish also has a nice ginger and garlic kick. This is hacked, skin-on, bone-in pieces of meat, but it’s so tender that eating it is a breeze.

If you’re eating soup or other dishes, add a plate of Taiwanese sausage fried rice ($6.95), which is light, fluffy and flavorful, studded with thin slices of sweet and salty sausage. Other dishes on the list include braised pork over rice, salt and pepper fried fish, and fried beef in hot chili oil.

To drink, try a milk tea made with Ten Ren tea, the premier tea brand from Taiwan.

A chalkboard ticks off daily specials, but unless you read Mandarin, you’re out of luck. No sweat; the owner would be happy to walk you through them if you ask.

As for the strange name: Phusion is a sister restaurant to Phuel Cafe, the health-focused eatery in Playhouse Square. The names serve to group them as a unit.

Look for Phusion to add both American and Taiwanese breakfast items to the mix soon.