In certain culinary circles, “fusion” has become a dirty word. The label is often used to describe a sloppy and promiscuous combination of elements from disparate styles of cooking that many of us expect the end result to be an interesting-sounding but ultimately mediocre-tasting dish.
Laurenzo’s Restaurant has managed to transcend that stigma by producing a series of new happy hour bites (available every day from 3 to 7 p.m.) some of which function as a rare successful collaboration of elements of Gulf, Italian, and even Mexican cuisines.
But first, a libation. Laurenzo’s Moscow Mule is icy and satisfying, but lacks the intense bite I prefer via the use of a fiery brand of ginger beer. Their Paloma, however, was on point with a terrific balance of grapefruit, Cuervo tequila and lime.
The seafood sampler ($10) is a steal for the diversity of crustaceans included, namely some buttery raw oysters, oversized shrimp and sweet snow crab claws. If you, like me, are a huge fan of our eight-legged friends (and I don’t mean spiders), then the baby octopus bruschetta will prove absolutely delightful. A consummate example of fusion done well, these crispy bâtard toasts layered with bloody Roma tomatoes, red onion, olive oil, piquant balsamic reduction and juicy whole infant mollusks are briny, botanical and delicious.
Pair this lighter, refreshing dish with the more decadent truffle risotto. The rice is garnished but not prepared with Parmesan cheese, to enable the unctuous fungus flavor to dominate the supple arborio grains. A single serving will feed one regular Joe but only half a risotto aficionado, so double down to indulge fully.
Laurenzo’s signature prime rib also makes a welcome guest appearance in the form of a triplet of sliders. Served on King’s Hawaiian buns, the tender, sanguine slices of flesh are enlivened with a horseradish sauce that will tickle your tongue and clear your nasal passages. In other words, the perfect food for the ravenous allergy sufferer.
Finally, Gulf happily meets Mediterranean again with Laurenzo’s char-grilled oyster cloaked in melted Parmesan cheese. Slurp these suckers to consume the maximum amount of divine oceanic oily protein and to taste how fusion should really be done.