June 4, 2005
Fusion Food or Just Plain Wrong?

Tonight, the Critic and I found ourselves in the car on the way home and hungry near dinner time. We talked over our options and in the end decided to go to a Tex-Mex restaurant not far from our apartment in the 17th arrondisement, El Rancho. We had been there once before and the Critic loved his meal and I thought mine disappointing. However it had been over a year and my memory was fuzzy on why I was dissatisfied so I agreed to give it another try.

Looking over the menu tonight I remembered why I disliked it. To me, everything on the menu was (to paraphrase the late Douglas Adams) almost, but not quite entirely, unlike Tex-Mex food. I hotly contested the label of being a food snob tonight. But I have never seen blue cheese on a tostada. Or tortillas made of spinach. Or nachos in the main dish section of a menu. And a blue Margarita is wrong, just wrong.

The Critic said it was "fusion". I didn't ask what on earth the cook had "fused" this Tex-Mex inspired food with. The thing is, it's not a high-class pretentious restaurant. I don't believe the chef intentionally strayed from the usual ingredients: he just didn't know what he was doing. My personal belief is that it's just a bad attempt on the part of a French owner to lure in homesick Americans and mildly adventuresome French diners.

That said, I have to admit that I envy the Critic his open-mindedness. The broccoli in the fajitas put me off them forever, but the Critic was actually very happy with his blue-cheese-and-tomato tostada and his fajitas-with-every-vegetable-in-the-market while I grumbled over a mediocre hamburger.

Closed-mindedness (some would say bloody-mindedness) has its price...

If you really want to go there and decide whether it's Fusion or Wrong, here is the address:

El Rancho
74 r Jouffroy d'Abbans
75017 PARIS
01 42 27 09 0

Posted by Meg in Sussex at June 4, 2005 3:00 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

I couldn't agree with you more it ain't fusion, it's just plainn wrong! I haven't been in a few years, and was just reaching the point where, on walking by the other day, I though "It can't be as bad as I remember". Thanks for saving me from disappointment!

Posted by claire on June 4, 2005 at 4:02 PM

Claire, thanks for the support. My husband snorted when I told him about your comment! I have to say (though it sounds sooo egotistical) that the only decent Mexican food I've had in Paris was made in my own kitchen. Thank heavens for Mexi & Co!

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 5, 2005 at 4:25 PM

Fusion Tex-Mex? If you said the word "fusion" in Texas, or tried to put blue cheese on a tostada I believe you might just find yourself neck deep in the desert with a bunch of red ants coming for dinner.

Posted by barrett on June 5, 2005 at 11:51 PM

Makes me remember the gouda cheese creme frâiche tacos they used to hawk in Germany. Couldn't eat those with an open mind, either.

Posted by Annika on June 7, 2005 at 2:37 PM

Yes, we have a similar problem here: any orange cheese is deemed to be sufficiently "Mexican"!

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 8, 2005 at 2:17 AM

Now that's even more wrong. Mexican cheeses (at least the ones that make it to Chicago) are generally white or white with a reddish dusting along the "rind".

Of course you can't get good Belgian food here at all.

Posted by barrett on June 8, 2005 at 9:35 AM

It's because they think all cheddar cheese is Kraft Mac-a-chee neon orange.

Getting back to the Germany issue, I remember when I lived there ten years ago that every time you saw the word "Mexican" to describe a dish it simply meant that someone had dumped a can of sweet corn in it or next to it! It took us a while to work that one out...!

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 8, 2005 at 9:40 AM

I've seen LOTS of blue margaritas here in Houston, including the TexMex places, for many years. Blue Curacao is an orange flavored liqueur like Triple Sec is. But I didn't make very many when I bartended at a popular Hispanic bar; I either made traditional or frozen strawberry margaritas.

I've eaten a few green or red corn chips (Christmas time), but hubby tells me those are dyes (he worked at flour/corn tortilla factory), not spinach. I would think spinach would affect the flavor of the chips, but I'd give it a try since I had some mushroom/spinach quesadillas that were pretty good.

I think TexMex restaraunts use a mixture of white and yellow cheeses over stuff, but some just use yellow. I haven't seen blue cheese, or broccoli, in TexMex and would definately pass ;^)

Posted by Sherri on June 8, 2005 at 5:11 PM

I have a problem with a lot of the restaurants around here (Zürich,Switzerland) that try to do what I'd call Americanized-ethnic food, like Tex-Mex or Asian-fusion. Something always seems a little bit wrong, whether it's the wrong kind of cheese, or the wrong kind of veggie mix, or something. But after about 10 years of living here or commuting to here I've learned to relax about it a bit more...so they use Gruyere instead of expensive (here) cheddar melted over tortilla chips, if it's tasty it's ok.

But I do hungrily assault the "real" Tex-Mex or NY-style-pizza or what have you places when I'm in the U.S.

Posted by maki on June 11, 2005 at 7:35 AM

I personally think fusion in food leads to wonderul results. There's nothing wrong with mixing up different food sources, provided the results are great!

Posted by Fareeha Rafique on June 13, 2005 at 7:41 AM

Fareeha, I also enjoy fusion food when a talented cook is intelligently and creatively mixing two or more cultures. One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago back in the early 90s was a place called Yoshi's; the chef had trained in France and had a wonderful mix of French and Japanese cuisines. The sauces were extraordinary.

However, in this instance I think the strange items on the menu were due to a lack of knowledge rather than intent to experiment. When that is the case, it's a bit of a toss-up whether the result will be good or just strange.

That said, I admit I'm a little prejudiced about Mexican food as it's so hard to find here in Paris!

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 14, 2005 at 2:33 AM
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