I have always struggled with my racial identity. Growing older and caring less about what the cool kids think and how to fit in have helped ease this issue, but nevertheless, the concept of race and the nature of being Asian American is often on my mind. I am by blood Chinese. I prefer dumplings over burgers. I become morbidly obsessed with Chinese TV dramas. In school, when other kids’ parents packed them sandwiches for lunch, my parents packed me fried rice, and I loved it. At the same time, I speak English better than Chinese. I can debate you up and down about American history but can’t tell you how many provinces China has, much less where all those provinces are located. I feel out of place when I visit China because I’m so used to being a minority that having everyone around me look like me was disorienting. How do you bridge that? How do I label myself? Do I need to pick a side? All questions that I’ve pondered and wrestled with.
Just as I struggle with fusing these identities in my own life, I think Asian fusion restaurants struggle with their identities and more often than not, fail spectacularly at it. While my experience at Franchia is not that bad, it’s done nothing to stop me from continuing to squint suspiciously at “Asian fusion” places.
Franchia is a modern, vegan, Asian fusion, Korean cafe and teahouse – quite a combination of identities it has taken on, each with varying degrees of success. I do love the ambiance of the space: a serene, tea-infused oasis with a modern kick.
Some steamed kimchi dumplings to share, which were very yummy. I like the thin skin of the dumplings, and it’s nice to have dumplings steamed. I don’t usually see that as an option – they’re always pan-fried or boiled.
My friend got the pad thai, which looks so pretty on the plate. It was a decent dish but nothing to rave about.
The only side dish they have is some more kimchi. Does fusion mean you only get 1 instead of 10 side dishes? This makes me grumpy.
For me, I went with an avocado bibimbap, which sounded like an interesting combination. Unfortunately, I don’t think the avocado worked too well with the rice and the red pepper paste. After mixing it all together, each bite was creamy but spicy as well, which was so weird. I couldn’t finish it.
Perhaps we ordered the wrong things. Or perhaps, this Asian fusion concept is not that easy to pull off.
12 Park Ave (btw 35th & 34th) New York, NY 10016