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Posted February 11, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Food fusion: To woo crowds, restaurant offers meals from many countries
By Mariann Hughes -- Daily Staff Writer
WINCHESTER -- So who exactly is Jian Lu?
"People call me all kinds of names," he said, laughing. "Dishwasher, too."
But actually, the co-operator of Mimosa Asian Fusion Restaurant in Winchester is a man with great passion for his up-and-coming Asian-American eatery, sandwiching the duties of an owner enthusiastically with the less-glamorous roles of table waiting and dishwashing.
"It's a lot of trial and error and hard work," Lu said of launching and maintaining a successful restaurant.
"Everyone puts in a little bit of something."
Exploring different Chinese and Japanese cuisine, with some Korean and Thai thrown in, and adding an American twist, Mimosa joins a growing food trend toward "Asian fusion."
"[It involves] different types, styles of cooking and ingredients and not categorizing any particular feel, particular ethnic group," Lu said.
"I guess you could say it's like having an Asian chef in an American home and Americans are telling the chef what they want."
There's a wide selection on the menu and something to please anyone's palate, whether they're seeking the traditional cashew chicken or want to embark on the more unusual fusion dishes like Prawn Wonton, smothered in a lemongrass sauce, or Coconut Shrimp Tempura, served with sliced bananas and drizzled with coconut milk. Or how about an American favorite -- grilled strip -- with a sweet-citrus soy sauce garnished with asparagus?
There are also full bars, whether patrons are seeking alcohol or sushi. Pickup and delivery also are available.
And, in case the children in a group may not want to join an ethnic cuisine exploration, the menu also offers their familiar favorites.
"We have a little kids' menu for them," Lu said. "We actually throw in fries because our fusion name doesn't eliminate us from ... fries for the kids."
The business has been open since the end of September. The location, says Lu, is a little out of the way in a fairly new shopping center, so they rely heavily on excellent customer service to promote their cuisine.
"It's not crazy hectic around here," he said. "We can spend more time with customers."
"We just want to be casual dining, but bring out the better service."
The co-operators aimed their plans for the restaurant at creating a blend of American and Asian casual comfort in the feel and style of the restaurant. The Americanized booths and tables allow for relaxed dining. There are chopsticks for the skilled or the adventurous, and flatware for the less so. A delicate jasmine pearl tea comes served in a small black teapot with tiny matching cups. A patio connected to the building allows for outdoor dining in warmer weather. And fish tanks, stocked with all sorts of specimens, stretch across the restaurant, garnering warm approval from patrons, especially from the small fry.
"It's not something extravagant or very high-class or the best of the materials ... that wasn't the whole goal," Lu said. "[I] wasn't trying to be fancy, wasn't trying to be classy ... we wanted to be priced so that the customers can afford [us]."
Lu and his partner, Jun Yan, decided quickly that they wanted to start a business and jumped into it feet first.
They signed the lease for the restaurant about a year ago and started with their own ideas, whether it was the interior design or the menu choices. Lu has a background in Internet sales; Yan, said Lu, became an executive chef at the age of 15 in Hong Kong and had his own restaurant at the age of 24.
Blending their skills, the two have come up with their own sort of "fusion."
"It has a lot of my personal ideas," explained Lu.
The choices have evolved as Lu and Yan have refined by trial and error the type of cuisine they are striving to create.
"[The] menu has changed a lot from our initial plan to what it is today," Lu said.
"We have a nice selection -- not too complicated."
Lu values communication with his customers, and strives to interpret their particular tastes and make appropriate recommendations.
"I get a feel of how you're trying to eat today," he said.
Lu suggests that patrons order a variety of different dishes and try each one family-style. It's the American way, he said, for one person to only order and eat one dish.
To make their establishment stand out from the crowd, Lu said, "We try to work on the fusion dishes ... [they have to] have some sort of American flavor to it -- also not forgetting that we are Asian, too; we need to incorporate both."
Excellence in their product and care in their creations drives the business.
"This is our image, this is what we depend on," Lu said. "If it's good we need to keep it. If it is bad we need to find a way to improve."
Contact Mariann Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org
What: Mimosa Asian Fusion Restaurant
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