A lot of my life consists of never ending “must do’s,” particularly at the suggestion of others. That great show on Netflix you’ve recommended I watch? I’ll add it to my list, and most likely will not watch it. So you’ve started on a new book that I simply must read? I will definitely add it to my “must read” list, and likely will not. I am often overwhelmed with shows, movies, outings and meals to try, and there isn’t enough time for it all. The sheer volume of things I must do compared with the seemingly few hours a day in which to accomplish them is the real struggle. How can I possibly choose? Still, I am fortunate enough to eat and write about good food, which means I am always open to restaurants worth trying.
Sierra Fusion, with its 4.5 stars on Yelp, picture-perfect Instagram feed and positive buzz amongst my friends who have dined there, was recently checked off my list. Owned by husband and wife duo Joseph Ungrue and Christina Duarte, Sierra Fusion is located on West Sierra Madre Boulevard, in Sierra Madre. They offer beautiful Asian fusion fare with unique and delicious flair. With my sister and brother-in-law in tow, we arrived an hour before closing (apologies to the staff) and were seated right away. The restaurant is very small, intimate and dimly lit, which made it all the cozier on the cold Saturday night we visited. There are countless unique items on their menu, and it was truly difficult to decide what to order, knowing I did not have room for everything to make the cut.
We started with an appetizer of their street tacos ($7-$9) that we mixed and matched — chili verde pork made with green papaya and relish topped with queso fresco, fried shrimp served with pickled slaw, salsa verde and crema, and a hard shell taco de papa (potato taco) with pickled slaw, salsa verde, crema and queso fresco. The potato taco was easily my favorite, filled with amazing flavor and a kick I wasn’t expecting but was very much welcome. Carne asada was the others’ favorite, made with citrus relish, radish and queso fresco. Surprisingly, the chili verde pork did not make the top of the list, with the salsa and toppings overpowering the meat itself and losing the essence of what the taco could have been.
After tacos we were served our sushi rolls, which were as beautiful in person as they are on Instagram — no easy feat these days. We ordered the surf and turf ($18), which consists of lobster roll, cucumber, avocado, seared fillet, kizami butter, and fried shallots. All ingredients blended harmoniously, yet came through distinctly on their own. Do yourself a favor and add this to your “must-try” list if you have one — and follow through. As a lover of tempura, I couldn’t help myself from ordering the veggie crunch roll ($11) made with vegetable tempura rolled neatly and topped with tempura flakes, served with their house ponzu, a citrus based sauce. Other notable rolls include their fish and chips ($14) made with crispy Chilean sea bass, marble chips, and served with a zesty vinegar-based shiso dipping sauce, as well as their Red Dragon roll ($14) made with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, cucumber tuna, tempura flakes, and an eel sauce.
To finish off our meal, and by recommendation of our sever who said it was his favorite dessert, we tried the warm Hawaiian bread pudding ($9) and I could not have been more surprised. I’ll admit that I generally do not enjoy bread pudding- I don’t enjoy the texture or typically love the combination of flavors, but reluctantly ordered this one because the server was so enthusiastic and confident it’s the best dessert on the menu. Without trying the others and being the bread pudding cynic that I am, I’m here to tell you that it definitely is. We ordered it a la mode, and there’s no better way to describe it other than it tastes like a warm hug, ice cream and all. There is, however, a flourless chocolate brownie ($7) that is gluten-free and looks intriguing enough to give it a go next time.
Despite the amazing rolls we had and the entrees offered, Sierra Fusion is the perfect place to enjoy several starters and tapas in lieu of a full meal. It is just as filling, and maybe more satisfying to be able to delve into the fusions they have created. It wasn’t until I read that Ungrue trained in Japanese cuisine with a Filipino mother and Greek-Indian father, and Duarte trained in traditional French technique with Mexican parents, did the entire menu make sense and make me love it more. Their story and their backgrounds are poured into each dish, and work together to create a perfectly balanced and sometimes surprising menu. From their crispy rice ($11) and crispy foie ($16) to the chorizo and papa empanadas ($8) and petite chicken pot pie ($11), there is something everyone can enjoy. Soups and salads ($4-$11), pan seared scallops ($12), glazed duck ($12) served with mixed vegetables and stir fried noodles, lemon pepper wings ($8), black angus ribeye ($27), the list goes on and on.
Sierra Fusion has a happy hour from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, daily specials, and an enviable wine and cocktail list. There is even a perfectly curated menu for children consisting of traditional macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders, but also a chicken teriyaki bowl served with white rice (all $7 each) making it appropriate for both date night and family night. After a wonderful experience that my family and I enjoyed, I’m glad Sierra Fusion was at the top of my list to try, and is now at the top of another: my favorites.