Phet Young owned Jasmine Thai & China Bistro in Saline for five years. Where was it? “That’s what everybody ask!” she laughs, delighted that her point has been made for her. “We tuck all the way behind CVS. It so hard for people to find.”
Young, who is a mix of Southeast Asian nationalities, mainly Thai and Laotian, speaks five languages. She speaks English rapidly and urgently, tossing away the smaller words and syllables that get in her way. She’s lively and gregarious, unlike her husband, who is so shy she refuses to even give his name. “He say, ‘Don’t put me there!’ He so shy. He real shy guy, but really good cook!” Of mainly Chinese ethnicity and raised in Cambodia, he too is a Southeast Asian polyglot.
Once their Saline lease was up, Young (whose first name is more or less pronounced Pat–“just don’t call me ‘fat’,” she says) and her nameless husband loaded up their three kids (ages fourteen, thirteen, and eleven) and moved to Ann Arbor to open a restaurant that people could find. Their Asian Fuzion Cafe opened at the end of September in the former Greeko’s Coney-Grill, in Pittsfield Plaza on Washtenaw next to Falsetta’s Market. They did some smart and strategic redecorating–a soothing fountain in the tiny foyer, potted orchids, a paint job, and gentler lighting all signal a step up from Greeko’s clattering diner ambience. But Phet Young is no aesthetic purist. A projector beams TV shows to a seventy-two-inch screen high on the wall behind the counter. “I wanted a big TV, but they don’t have that big. So, I go for the projector,” she shrugs.
Young is still working out her menu. At the core are the Thai and Chinese favorites that she and her husband served in Saline and can crank out with their eyes closed: pad Thai, several classic curries, tom yum and tom kha soups, and a dozen or so Chinese stir-fries. She has also studded the menu with her favorite American classics–from the looks of it, Young particularly likes ham and cheese sandwiches and any kind of sausage. She also really digs New Orleans–a whole section of the menu is devoted to Cajun items like jambalaya.
She’s also a fan of breakfast, available daily until 2 p.m., both standard and Asian-accented (Thai omelet with Thai basil, cilantro, and spicy sausage; pancakes with pineapple and coconut marmalade; tofu scrambles). Coming soon, she promises, when she hires the proper chefs, are pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup, and Japanese noodle dishes. She also may add bubble tea.
Full of enthusiasm for Ann Arbor in general and its public schools in particular, she was thrilled when her oldest daughter got into Community High by lottery. While the kids aren’t old enough yet to work for her, they see plenty of the restaurant. “Very convenient,” she points out. “I take kids here every morning, give them breakfast, then send them off.”
Asian Fuzion Cafe, 3452 Washtenaw (Pittsfield Plaza). 929-1239. Sun.-Thurs. 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 8 a.m.-10 p.m.