The first dish hit the table: Three steamed buns wearing pale pink snouts, matching ears, and black eyes the size of sesame seeds. Three little piggies — so cute you might be tempted to tickle one.
Cuteness is all over the menu at Fusion Delight, the one-year-old San Leandro restaurant that’s become one of the most popular dim sum destinations in the East Bay. Waits for a table on the weekend frequently top an hour.
Before the piggies arrive, though, what’s immediately striking about Fusion Delight is how much it feels like a Hong Kong dim sum house. There’s the grand entrance, punctuated by a glass art installation that looks like gleaming, white flower petals suspended mid-air. Inside the enormous, 328-person dining room, plush purple chairs flank gold tablecloths. The fish tank glows. The chopsticks are branded. And just about everyone in the restaurant speaks rapid Cantonese.
The menu reflects current trends, too. While you can certainly still find classic dim sum houses in Hong Kong, the newest and buzziest establishments churn out sausage buns that look like wiener dogs, fish balls transformed into penguins, and bird-shaped pineapple dumplings served in an elegant cage. There are restaurants dedicated to Sanrio characters such as Hello Kitty and Gudetama. (At the Gudetama-themed restaurant, a bao depicting the lazy egg character even barfs up yellow custard when you squeeze its stomach.) It’d be tempting to say it’s a trend driven purely by Instagram, but Hong Kongers’ obsession with cuteness isn’t new. It merely follows in the footsteps — presumably adorable, anthropomorphic, blushing, and giggling footsteps — of Taiwan and Japan. In Japan, kawaii refers specifically to this culture of cuteness that emerged in the 1970s. And Fusion Delight is just one in a fleet of local dim sum restaurants that have taken this cute cue from Hong Kong. In San Francisco, Dragon Beaux dyes its soup dumplings in vivid shades of red, green, and yellow, and Hong Kong Lounge’s shrimp dumplings resemble little bunnies. In Oakland, the new owners of Peony serve steamed buns dressed up like teapots.
Read the full article in the East Bay Express.
Photo by Richard Lomibao / East Bay Express