The concept of an “Asian-Cajun” fusion restaurant may sound unusual to some people, but it really shouldn’t: Louisiana has a huge population of Asian-American citizens, especially from southeast countries like Vietnam. But more than being either Viet or Cajun, Orchid City Fusion Café in Arlington is foremost a college-student coffeehouse with a small appetizer and entrée menu. It’s located directly across from Tarrant County College’s southeast complex and right next to the college bookstore. A recent afternoon visit found the laid-back restaurant serving high quality, casual fare to a full house of chattering students.
From a small appetizer list that includes fried mozzarella sticks and calamari, we tried the Orchid Fries, the house’s variation on cheese fries: a generous mound of tender, thin-cut spuds with a strong buttery-garlic flavor, paper-thin shreds of lean but hearty beef, zesty crumbles of medium-sharp feta cheese, and, most interestingly, little pieces of chewy sun-dried tomato and dried cranberries. The latter added a nice sour fruitiness to the heavy carbs and protein, although like so many “appetizers” these days, the Orchid Fries were so heavy they really belonged on the entrée side.
From seven types of burgers, we chose the Downtown, which sounded kind of intimidating: a sirloin patty topped with American cheese, avocado slices, sliced mushroom caps, fresh spinach leaves, salty bacon curls, a sunny side-up hard-fried egg, tomato slices, and mayo. It wasn’t nearly the architectural feat you might imagine, but it was a high-quality mess. The medium-rare patty was a lovely pink and very juicy. The bitter spinach, creamy avocado, and crispy-edged egg blended into one crazy-good mélange of flavors and textures.
The star entrées at Orchid City are salads and rice dishes that come with your choice of chicken, beef, salmon, tilapia, catfish, oysters, or lemongrass-and-pepper tofu. We selected the Autumn Salad with tilapia. The veggies –– romaine lettuce and spinach, slices of green bell pepper, aromatic purple onion, thin wedges of skin-on green apple, shredded carrots, and avocado slices –– were fresh and crisp and mixed terrifically with a trail mix-like combo of crunchy cashews, salty housemade croutons, sun-dried tomatoes, and dried cranberries. The grilled tilapia fillet on top was lightly crispy on the outside, moist and hearty on the inside, though the onion vinaigrette dressing proved bland. But the fruits, veggies, and white fish were a great combination even without any dressing.
The spicy basil rice with salmon had more kick, thanks to the earthy bits of basil mixed with bell pepper, carrot shreds, and tons of agreeably chewy, lightly fried long-grain rice. Little wedges of fresh lime added a killer citrus note to the grilled fish, which, like the tilapia on the salad, was meaty and delicious. Another sunny-side-up egg rested on top. It wasn’t strictly necessary to the overall dish, but it was a yummy extra nonetheless.
Orchid City Fusion Café also has a large menu of hot and cold caffeinated beverages, teas, smoothies, shakes, and trendy health drinks with ingredients like aloe vera and lychee. Though its “fusion” menu probably won’t hold any surprises for aficionados of either Cajun or Vietnamese chow, the place will provide a fast, friendly, tasty meal for everyone, not just college kids.
Orchid City Fusion Café
2135 Southeast Pkwy, Ste 101, Arlington. 817-468-3777. Mon-Sat 8:30am-9pm.
Orchid Fries ………………….. $6.95
Autumn Salad w/tilapia …… $7.95
Basil rice w/salmon ………… $8.95
Downtown Burger …………. $8.95