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Redding's Fusion Lounge was my final Lao meal during the Carr Fire (August 2018). While I missed happy hour (4 to 6p), I did catch Taco Tuesday at this ethnic Iu Mien-owned drinking establishment. During the crisis it gave out hot dogs and tacos to evacuees and firefighters.
Kao soy (yes, you read that right) tacos are 2 for $5 or 3 for $7 on Tuesday. The filling is the garlicky, ground pork seasoned with fermented bean paste and chilis that's included in Mien-style Kao soy noodle dish but tucked into a flour tortilla. Pretty tasty dressed with iceberg, tomato, onion, cilantro and house salsa. Fried chicken or shrimp tacos were also discounted.
That other dish was salt baked calamari, $9. I asked if it was strips or rings, and the reply was, "bits and pieces". No idea how to interpret that so I ordered it anyway, and yep, it seemed to be bits and pieces, such as a a few single tentacles, a crosscut of a big octopus tentacle, the cape end of a market squid, stray strips. So this seems to be the sweepings of what's left after cutting squid into pretty rings. Tastes the same, just can't tell what exactly you're eating. The calamari was a touch overdone and too chewy. Yet, the tamarind salt seasoning was delicious, and the "fusion sauce" had that spicy/salty/sweet/sour thing going on in a mayonnaise base. Best part of this appetizer, surprisingly, turned out to be grilled cebollitas (scallions) that were tossed with the same seasoning mix. I was not a fan of the pho.
Very attentive waitresses here, entirely unexpected in a loud and crowded bar. It was cool to see that the majority of the diehard customers were non-Asian, as well as the servers, demonstrating that this mash-up of Southeast Asian flavors with American classics is a winner.
Fusion Lounge moved less than a month ago to a more central location in the downtown area. The previous site in a light industrial zone was the only thing I didn't like about the place. Happy to know that it is thriving.
1545 Placer St.
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