This Bells Corners restaurant space was, for many years, the West End Station Bistro. It is now La Cuisine Pacific Rim, open since September. Its chef-owner is La Lim, who (along with his brother Thi Lim) is also connected with three Thi Fusion restaurants — Pho Thi Noodle House on Merivale Road, Pho Thi Fusion in Barrhaven, and Thi Fusion in Kanata.
Other than the need for window “treatments” — the better to shield us from the soulless view of whizzing cars and neon lights on Richmond Road — I like the look of this place. It’s modern, spacious, with smart, comfortable chairs, and now with a sushi bar and aquarium.
As the name implies, Pacific Rim cuisine is a fusion of western cooking with Asian ingredients and Japanese sensibilities. Think green tea creme brulee, Sichuan-style steak au poivre. It can be delicious, exciting stuff. But, like all fusion efforts when the training is short on fundamentals and the ingredients below par, it can be shallow and forced.
There’s more of the latter going on here, I’m afraid.
Though I like the sushi. The presentations are stylish and the constructs are well calibrated, with the fresh-tasting fish generously and artfully draped over body-temperature rice. I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve sampled.
For a glass of wine or sake (the list is not long, but certainly stronger and more thoughtful than what’s offered at most Asian restaurants) and a plate of sushi, I think La Cuisine Pacific Rim is a fine addition to Bells Corners. I would just suggest you mostly stay on the cold side of the menu.
Other than being a bit over-fried, a bit drier than ideal, the flavour in “mom’s” spring rolls is clear. And La Cuisine’s mussels were fat and fresh, even if their curry sauce was thick and raw-tasting.
A duck salad was a plate of workable elements — slices of rare duck, cashews, orange sections, grilled eggplant and wilted greens — but the dish never came together, missing a dressing that could unite the bits and pieces on the plate. Seared and rare, tuna is presented in a won ton cup with seaweed and mushrooms and, though the contrast of crunch and soft worked, the flavour was utterly mute. Tempura samplers were limp, unimpressive shrimp and various veggies in a squelchy, weighty batter.
Of the main dishes, there was little to like. It was all either blunt or bland. Chewy little bay scallops, overcooked shrimp and rubber calamari were the disappointments in a generally lacklustre pad Thai.
Shrimp curry was raw-tasting, lacking any subtle flavours, and tasting thickened with flour. I think the same sauce coated the mussels. The grilled sesame salmon with a miso beurre blanc was juiceless, tasting of frozen fish. Ditto for the halibut, which was shockingly dry.
Only the chili chocolate cake was a success from the desserts list. The key lime cheesecake was still frozen at its centre, its graham crust desperate for butter to hold it together, while the green tea cheesecake was too thick, too dry and too sweet.
At my final visit, a couple of gents were perched at the bar, sharing some sushi and watching the Senators on the screen finally win something. Until this Pacific Rim restaurant sorts out its kitchen, I suggest you do likewise.