At some point, "fusion" became one of the dirty words of dining. Asian fusion this, Asian fusion that. Well, sometimes fusion is a good thing, especially when chefs and restaurateurs come up with interesting ways to combine two disparate dishes.
Need proof? Here are some of the most interesting hybrids around Washington right now.
Mapo tofu poutine at Haikan
Mapo tofu is a spicy Chinese classic, saucy and pulsing with the numbing power of Sichuan peppercorns. Since the dish has also gained popularity in Japan, Haikan's chef Katsuya Fukushima decided he wanted to offer it at his Sapporo-style ramen shop. He settled on a version made with ground chicken.
When he couldn't decide how to serve it -- over rice or on its own as a side -- he realized that mapo tofu was basically a gravy and thus ripe for a riff on the Canadian staple poutine. Fukushima has made the dish with fresh mozzarella curds, but is also playing around with cheddar, as well. Fries are made to order; the dish proved so popular just days into the restaurant's existence that the kitchen ran out of spuds one night. $8. Haikan, 805 V St. NW.
Gnocchi bokki at Hazel
You can thank a snowstorm for planting the seeds of this Italian-Korean hybrid. Hazel chef Rob Rubba made gnocchi while stranded at home and planned to top them with tomato sauce when he realized he didn't have the right ingredients. He raided his wife's Korean pantry supplies, digging into the ingredients she used to cook dukbokki, a dish made with rice cakes and a spicy sauce. Gnocchi bokki was born. At Hazel, the dish is amped up with a spicy pork ragu made with kimchi, plus a topping of smoked pecorino cheese. The tender potato dumplings are pan-fried to order to produce a caramelized flavor and texture. $15. Hazel, 808 V St. NW.
Cinnascone at Buttercream Bakeshop
Breakfast pastries: Cinnamon bun or scone? The struggle is real. Thankfully, pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac has solved this conundrum by combining the two into one creation that outshines both of its parents. The cinnascone consists of buttery, tender scone dough rolled up with a cinnamon filling. And what's a cinnamon bun without a glaze? MacIsaac's twofer features a glossy, generous coating of sweet and spiced goodness almost all over the whole thing. $3.50. Buttercream Bakeshop, 1250 Ninth St. NW.
Fried chicken 'coq au vin' at Convivial
When Cedric Maupillier opened his buzzy dining room in Shaw last fall, this dish became an instant classic. Coq au vin is a traditional French braised dish, but here the chef distills its essence into a glaze that helps preserve the fried chicken's crispness. That component, of course, is very American. (Maupillier was also inspired by Korean fried chicken.) A variety of vegetables, including mushrooms, potatoes and carrots, rounds out the dish. $18. Convivial, 801 O St. NW.
Sushi burritos at Buredo
Love 'em or loathe 'em, this supersized cross between dainty sushi and hefty burritos is here to stay, and Buredo has helped electrify the trend in Washington. Crammed with rice inside a nori wrapper, fillings range from sashimi and tofu to pork shoulder and spicy beets. The Sofie, for example, features shrimp tempura, avocado and Sriracha mayo. $8.85 to $11.75. Buredo, 825 14th St. NW and 1213 Connecticut Ave. NW.