Cape cuisine, Hawaiian style
By: Elise Hugus, August 5, 2011
- Enjoy the view overlooking Eel Pond from inside or on the spacious deck.
For some, the idea of opening a fine dining Asian-fusion establishment in the heart of Woods Hole would have been a recipe for disaster.
But with owner Carol Grigas at the helm since 2003, Phusion has become something of a Mecca for those seeking a reprieve from the fried fish n’ chips standards typically associated with Cape Cod fare.
From the PB&J lobster corn dogs to the famous “Phu-burger,” this is “new American” cuisine defined.
“It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s a little obnoxious,” says Chef Stuart Hirsch. “But it’s always tasty.”
The secret is in the sauce
A New York City native, Hirsch cut his teeth in the kitchens of trendy Miami and Fort Lauderdale restaurants, before heading to the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui, Hawaii. There, he honed his craft, developing a love for Hawaiian flavors and Asian influences.
A stint working for celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck gave Hirsch his flair for sauces, which he makes from scratch using coriander, chili, and exotic fruits by the cartload.
The secret to any sauce is simplicity, Hirsch says. The so-called “PB&J” gracing the lobster corn dog and mini lobster sandwiches is made on the premises with crushed peanuts, garlic chili sauce, fresh cilantro, and Thai basil plucked from the restaurant’s window boxes. The jelly is actually a red onion and wine reduction, a bright zig-zag rounding out the corn-battered lobster balanced on a bed of sesame-ginger slaw.
Phusion features classic American steaks and ribs and New England seafood standards, but the proof of their innovation is in the pudding, Hirsch says.
“The secret is in the preparation. That’s three-quarters of the battle,” he said, serving up a rack of grilled Kahana black ribs served over pineapple-chorizo fried brown rice.
Poached for hours in a spicy-sweet passion fruit plum sauce, the result is a balance between earthy and lip-smackingly tangy that leave customers licking the tile platter the ribs are served on.
Same goes for other Phusion classics: after slurping down their mussels, Grigas says, customers are known to drink the coconut-lemongrass-saffron broth they’re steeped in. More refined diners request a doggy bag.
To locovores’ delight, Hirsch has adapted New England standards to fit his exotic palette. The almond-ginger crusted North Atlantic salmon brings out a delightful contrast to the delicate fish, served over cranberry and goat cheese “smashed” potatoes; the oven roasted cod is sourced offshore of Cape Cod, as it should be.
Though Hirsch admits to flying in a moonfish from Hawaii, Phusion’s regular distributor buys the freshest fish from the local markets and sources its organic carrots, free range chicken, and heirloom tomatoes from New England and Quebec farms.
Sunday brunch takes on a whole new meaning at Phusion, best savored from the deck overlooking Eel Pond. With boats puttering past and ducks fighting the sea bass for scraps, the acoustic reggae notes from The Love Project wafting over the water, this is Woods Hole summertime at its best.
Try the huevros rancheros, eggs mornay, or thick cut French toast with pineapple ginger sauce for breakfast, or the pulled duck quesadilla, Phusion Kobe burger, or Maine lobster roll if you get there for lunch.
Phusion Grille is located at 71 Water Street, Woods Hole. Click here for a map and hours of operation.
Dinner entrees range from $14 to $33. Served nightly from 5 to 10 PM
Lunch menu is priced from $8 to $19. Served from 12 to 3 PM
Breakfast is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 to 11:30 AM, priced from $6 to $10