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Eurasia blends American cuisine with Asian and European flavors

East Meets West Meets South

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Eurasia opened before Christmas next to the Whole Foods on Houston Northcutt in Mt. Pleasant. It's actually the third restaurant in the fledgling Eurasia chain, with the first two locations in Virginia Beach and Richmond, Va. Executive Chef Meredith Adams made the move from Virginia Beach to Mt. Pleasant in the fall to open the new venture, teaming up with local restaurant veteran Andy Fallen, whose resumé includes stints at Mercato, 39 Rue de Jean, and, most recently, Samos.

Eurasia's theme can be a bit hard to pin down at first. The tag line is "Regional American: Seasonal, Local, Fresh" which strings together a lot of trendy words and makes one expect Southern-style dishes made with fresh local ingredients. The name Eurasia, however, conjures up, if not the barren Russian steppes, at least some sort of fusion of Italian and French with Asian flavors. At the same time, the wine list is described (accurately) as "New World" driven, anchored by wineries from the West Coast.

So, which is it? The answer seems to be all of the above.

On the soup menu, for instance, there's a sweet potato bisque with Carolina wildflower honey and country ham ($7) next to a Chinese-style hot and sour soup ($6). For an appetizer you can get edamame ($4) sprinkled with fleur de sel and fresh local shrimp fried tempura-style ($10) alongside a sesame-and-ginger slaw.

Eurasia has an upscale, minimalist modern style. On the left side of the large, open room is a large marble-topped bar with a few tall tables adjacent to it, while the main dining area has low, brown wooden tables with simple brown chairs and white cushions. The walls are painted the de rigueur lime green and hung with a few massive canvases with semi-abstract paintings of what appear to be forests of beech trunks. Ceiling fixtures with white shades provide soft lighting, while flickering tea lights in yellow globes dot each table. It's a stylish but comfortable setting, and the service is the appropriate blend of friendly and accommodating. And the food is as ambitiously modern and stylish, too.

The Bigeye Tuna Tar-tini 2 Ways ($13) is a bit of a tongue twister, but it's a good appetizer. Tuna tartare is blended into ginger-flavored sushi rice along with finely diced mango and cucumber, and it's all scooped into a martini glass. That core is then layered with rectangular slices of seared tuna, and the whole thing is topped with a big pile of brilliant green wakame seaweed and two big triangles of fried wonton wrappers. It's a dramatic presentation, but the flavors come together nicely. Against the smooth, cool tuna and rice, the little bits of sweet mango give a delightful punctuation. Even the fancy swirl of bright orange Sriracha sauce that garnishes the plate under the glass both enlivens the presentation and also tastes great when you dip a little onto a fork before taking a bite of tuna.

Similarly bold but more European in flavor are the triple cheese truffled ravioli ($9). The firm texture of the fresh pasta is just right, and the smooth cheese filling is laced with a big punch of pungent truffle oil. The ravioli are served over a pool of beurre blanc on a long oval glass dish. While a good beurre blanc (especially one flavored with a little citrus) can really shine on a plate, in this case its flavor is scarcely detectable against the heavy cheese and truffle flavors of the ravioli.

The entrées offer a similar melange of bold flavors and seemingly edgy combinations. The "off the hook 'Rockafella'" ($24) rises in a high tower above a big square white plate. It features the daily fish catch — flounder the last time we visited — laid over a bed of mashed potatoes and topped with fried oysters, fontina-laced creamed spinach, and bacon. There are a few Asian notes to some entrées, like the seared tuna with ginger lime aioli, wasabi potatoes, and daikon micro greens ($23), but the selections tend more toward contemporary American favorites like beef tenderloin with asparagus and risotto ($25), sautéed shrimp with grits cakes ($21), and a roasted leg of lamb with squash and couscous ($23).

The grilled diver scallops ($26) sound promising, and the plate itself is quite a construction. The scallops are mixed into a huge mound of baby arugula, with sweet tomato jam and chevre potato puree hidden underneath and a balsamic reduction sprinkled around the bottom of the plate. The scallops are big and fat and cooked nicely through, though the great brown caramelized sear that you usually get on diver scallops is not there. The chevre-laden potatoes are creamy and rich, but the sweet tomato jam is dull and, like the beurre blanc on the ravioli, doesn't add much. It's sort of like a warm, sweet spaghetti sauce. There's nothing necessarily bad about it, but it doesn't merge with the scallops nor the rich, cheesy potatoes, and it doesn't go with the balsamic vinegar, either, leaving at least one extra flavor on a plate that already has plenty of things going on.

And that's my main knock against Eurasia: The cooking seems to follow the philosophy that if a fusion of three flavors works well, then five or six would be even better.

The "brown butter bronzed" salmon ($24) comes over a bed of sweet potato purée and is topped with spiced cranberry purée. The salmon couldn't be any better — it's tender and cooked through just enough to get a delicate firmness on the outside but keep a slightly silky middle — while the cranberry purée has a rich blend of cinnamon and other mysterious notes. When combined with the sweet potatoes, they make a very pleasing Thanksgiving-like plate. In an interesting twist, the salmon is served with the crispy skin facing up, but I quickly flipped it over, finding it much easier to eat that way.

But, wait, there's more. The dish also features "caramelized" Brussels sprouts that are a little too firm and, quite honestly, a bit more grill-charred than they are caramelized, plus a bunch of duck belly lardons strewn around the outside of the potatoes and a sprinkling of finely ground black pepper dust at each end of the salmon. The duck lardons, with their strong gamey flavor, seem to be on the wrong plate. I played around with the powdered black pepper, dragging slices of salmon through it and dipping half a Brussels sprout into it, but I couldn't make it work, either. Which is a shame, because the salmon and cranberry purée are really good together.

Beyond this busyness, though, there is plenty to like about a meal at Eurasia. On both my visits the servers suggested excellent wine pairings, drawing from a list that has some two dozen choices by the glass. The desserts are delightful, too. The name suggests something creamy, but the hazelnut chocolate pâté turns out to be a dense, firm mound of chocolate, shaped in fluted mold and topped with raspberry syrup, crème anglaise, and sweet green syrupy swirls. Even more rich and decadent is the peanut butter s'mores bomb, which offers a big dome of peanut butter over a homemade marshmallow. The whole thing is coated with chocolate and a crisscross of toasted marshmallow and a little chocolate syrup drizzled across the top, plus a huge gob of green mint for a garnish. Though again, there's a little something extraneous, too: a mound of salt off on the side of the plate that's infused with 151-proof rum and set ablaze as the plate is brought to the table. It makes for a flashy presentation, but, once extinguished, the salt is far too strong and overwhelming for the rest of the creamy, chocolaty plate.

Perhaps Eurasia is simply a reflection of just how mainstream the blending of American regional specialties with European and Asian accents has become. For me, the fusion doesn't quite come together in a coherent style, but it's a pleasing venue, and the staffers go out of their way to make the evening enjoyable. The rich desserts and the by-the-glass wine selection — plus good cups of steaming espresso and a nice selection of after-dinner drinks — would make Eurasia a fine choice for just desserts and drinks, too. I've already heard quite a few excited raves about Eurasia, and I suspect it will probably have a pretty good run over the next few months as curious diners stop in to decide for themselves.

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