New fusion restaurant heats up Greensboro
By: Jennifer Zeleski
When it comes to choosing a restaurant, I tend to avoid those that label its menu as “fusion.” There is something about combining two entirely different types of cuisine that never seems to come out quite right. Embur Fire Fusion, located at 107 Smyres Pl. in Greensboro, just opened its doors in early August and seemed worth a try.
Embur is located behind Mad Hatter in what was formerly Donutime Coffee and Donuts. The old light-up sign still hangs in the window, but Embur is far from serving your favorite morning pick-me-up. The menu is a balance of Peruvian dishes and wood-fired pizza, which is not only atypical, but yet another international-cuisine restaurant added to Greensboro’s food scene. I tried not to have too high of expectations and looked forward to getting my first taste of Peruvian and Italian food just minutes outside of downtown.
Before walking in, guests may peek inside the large windows to see the wood-burning pizza oven or notice the large garden boxes lining the sidewalk, packed with fresh herbs. Copious amounts of basil, rosemary and various types of mint are growing well in the summer heat, creating a green contrast to the very modern interior of the restaurant just steps away.
Seating is open to your choice or preference, and the sides of the restaurant are lined with booths, where children would have no problem squeezing in if seating was limited. There is also a long bar in the back, facing a well-stocked liquor shelf and traditional espresso machine. I am not quite sure if the restaurant inherited it or if there are plans to use it, but one can only be surprised at a fusion restaurant.
The menu was intriguing at first glance. Some of the categories combined the two cuisines side-by-side, and others were strictly one or the other. More of the lunch options could be found in the salads, sandwiches and soup categories, whereas the heavier plates were those more in tune with their traditional roots.
There are long lists of ingredients for the salads, featuring several different flavors such as a Tropical Salad featuring arugula, mango, strawberries, sweet peppers, fennel, palmitos and lemon dressing. The sandwiches are more straight-forward; the Caprese consisted of tomato, mozzarella cheese and arugula (which is hardly the only meat-free option on the menu). All of the pizzas on the menu could be classified as vegetarian, aside from the Americana, which is a Margherita pizza with sautéed onion and pepper mix over rotisserie chicken.
Speaking of chicken, it is the only meat you will find on the menu. And after hearing rave reviews of how tender and flavorful rotisserie Peruvian chicken is, I couldn’t have been more excited. In most cases, chicken is my meat of choice, and I was curious to see how it would hold up to the hype.
However, I knew I couldn’t just order the chicken. If I was going to experience its fusion style, I was going to have to order a few of the menu items that I couldn’t identify, and somehow pair them with a side of pizza. Luckily my boyfriend, Peyton, is always up for the adventure, and we weren’t going to give up the opportunity to see what Embur could offer us.
Our order started with an appetizer of Yuquitas a la Huancaina, which I was too ashamed to try and pronounce, but our server described as fired yuca served with a yellow Peruvian pepper sauce. Despite my slight American embarrassment, our server could pronounce it beautifully.
Peyton ordered one of his personal favorites, Margherita pizza with just tomato and Fior Di Latte mozzarella, according to the menu. It was a safe choice, but one that he couldn’t pass up thanks to the enticing smell of the wood-burning oven, and the hope for a delicious pizza experience.
I chose the 1/4 Pollo a la Brasa, the Peruvian rotisserie chicken, which came with the option of hand-cut fries and a salad, or Peruvian-style house rice. Without thinking, I ordered the fries and salad as a side but realized my regret as our waitress walked away. The Peruvian rice sounded delicious, but I was tempted by the fresh, mixed-greens salad to pair with the savory chicken, so I didn’t allow my decision to lead to dissatisfaction.
Instead of waiting for a dessert menu until after dinner, I embraced the fact that I would be too full for tiramisu or alfajores (cookies filled with dulce de leche, topped with coconut flakes) upon finishing our meals, so I ordered the maduros (fried plantains) instead, as a sweet side.
The Yuquitas a la Huancaina didn’t take long to make its way to the table, and I was surprised how similar it looked to French fries, but how different they were. Despite its appearance, it was more savory than a potato and held a more complex flavor. The Yuquitas a la Huancaina smelled like fair food, but lacked the grease, and is what I plan on getting the next time I need a fried-food fix. The yellow dipping sauce wasn’t aggressive in flavor, and only had a mild spice that Peyton compared to jalapeños. The appetizer was satisfyingly crunchy and perfectly salted, but I knew I couldn’t finish them all with the rest of the food that would follow. Don’t be intimidated by the name; this could be the best appetizer for your family when you stop by (and you don’t have to tell the kids they’re not potatoes).
Our main entrées arrived shortly after, mine with varying textures and contrasting colors, and Peyton’s with picturesque melted cheese and bright red tomato sauce. We could hardly wait to dig in. The chicken, which was white meat and served with a small chicken wing attached, was so tender it pulled right off the skin. Not to be cliché, but it was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and difficult to stop eating to try my other options. The fries are good enough that I would have fallen in love with them as a child, despite not caring for steak-cut fries, but they could have used something to pair them with other than another version of the yellow pepper Peruvian sauce. I hate to admit that my American heart longed for a bit of ketchup.
When the yellow sauce was paired with the chicken, it was a good combination, but the sauce overshadowed the delicious flavors of just the chicken itself, so I opted out of using it. As for the salad, I adored the light balsamic vinegar it was tossed in, and the mixed greens and chopped tomatoes tasted fresh. It was a great way to cut the overall savory and salty flavors I was experiencing elsewhere, and I would be interested in trying the other salads on from the menu options next time I visit.
Peyton’s experience was quite different on the other side of the table, or continent depending on how you look at it. The pizza’s crust was thin and just barely crispy, which was surprising having been made in the wood-fired oven. The lack of crispy edges or blackened places made for a middle that was slightly disappointing, but the cheese was melted well, and the sauce had the tartness you need for a solid Margherita pizza. However, we couldn’t believe the lack of basil for having so many fresh herbs growing outside. But the overall flavor and texture of the pizza were pretty decent. Considering we only ordered the basic Margherita, we are unsure of the amount of actual toppings on the other options but would be interested to find out.
Finally, the maduros were a bit squishy and greasy for my liking. I never had fried plantains from a restaurant before, and these lacked the slight crisp I was used to. The plantains have a sweeter flavor, but not one that was similar to bananas, as many might suggest. The caramelization worked in their favor. I wouldn’t feel compelled to order the maduros again unless someone at the table felt strongly about having fried plantains.
Without the appetizer and additional side, the total would have been a modest $20 for two, which is your average cost in the area, and what would be expected for the amount of food for both plates. I can’t say I was as impressed with the cuisine as I am with the other authentic restaurants in Greensboro. Embur is a place that may satisfy picky eaters, and allow others to get outside of their comfort zone.
If you’re looking to take a chance on a fusion restaurant, Embur Fire Fusion is your newest stop in the Triad, and might just spark your appetite for local, combination cuisine.
Jennifer Zeleski is a student contributor to YES! Weekly. She is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications at High Point University.