Some colleagues and I were looking for a place to have dinner recently while attending a professional conference in the downtown area of Lowell, MA. The conference hosts suggested Fuse Bistro, a short walk from the conference center.
We arrived around 5:15 PM or so, which seems early, but at least we were seated right away. (By the time we left around 6:45 PM, a line had already formed at the entrance.)
The atmosphere is very pleasant. Tables are covered in some sort of sheet metal, the walls are brick, and attractive lighting gives just the right mood. Our server lit a couple of votives and placed them on our table, A bar with stools lines one wall; along another wall is padded seating and tables joined to accommodate a party of 10-12, if memory serves. A third wall facing the street is lined with large windows. Background noise (music, conversation) was at a very comfortable level.
The dishes we tried included the soup of the day (creamy sweet potato) with a Caesar salad, two orders of the thin-crust pizza (one made without cheese and the other made with mushrooms at the diners' requests), tacos of the day (which were blackened salmon), Cape Cod Crunch Burger, and the Half-pound Lamb Burger.
Two of our party had the Malbec and another had a bottled beer (the rest had soft drinks). The wine was very nice, and we were served a decent amount for the price.
The service was excellent. Water glasses were regularly filled and plates promptly cleared. And all the food arrived at the same time, each dish served at the proper temperature! I really respect a kitchen and wait staff that can pull this off.
I ordered the Lamb Burger medium and it was cooked perfectly! Warm pink center and scrumptuously juicy! There was a nice topping of feta mixed with a roasted olive relish and the applewood smoked bacon was awesome. (I was expecting the olives to be more finely chopped, but the flavor was a nice addition, regardless.) The Fuse fries were a tad soggy but there was a generous portion and they tasted fine.
The folks who ordered the creamy sweet potato soup raved about it. The pizza people were also very pleased. The only dish that didn't seem to hit the spot was the blackened salmon tacos. But that could have been due as much the palate of the diner as to the food, itself, because the person who ordered this dish is more of a pub-food enthusiast. (This is not to denegrate pub food or the people who enjoy it! I do so, myself, on occasion. But pub food tends to be less, um, adventurous.)
They have desserts posted on a blackboard that is placed conspicuously in the dining room. The night we went they offered an ice cream sandwich made with Heath Bar cookies and salted caramel ice cream. These are two of my favorite flavors, especially when served as an ice cream treat. However, I was a little disappointed in this (especially given the $8 price tag). The cookies were thin and crisp, and it looked as if the ice cream had been measured using a melon ball scoop! The result was not really an ice cream sandwich but three thin, hard cookies swimming in a small pool of melted ice cream on a thin layer of chocolate sauce. The taste was OK, but I was really hoping to sink my teeth into something more resembling an ice cream sandwich: two soft cookies surrounding a 3/4" slab of somewhat-hardened ice cream.
Overall, we were very satisfied with Fuse Bistro, and I plan to visit again when I am in the Lowell area. (By the way, the Downtown Lowell area, with its proximity to the water locks, the cobblestone streets, and mixture of interesting architectures, provides a nice venue for walking off a meal.)
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