Restaurant Review: Ignore decor; Marc's Fusion Cafe is about fantastic food
ROCKFORD, ILL.—Marc's Fusion Cafe is an unassuming little place.
The restaurant probably seats about 20-30 people, and it's in a beige brick building that's easy to miss in a neighborhood that's not particularly noteworthy.
The decor is a bit faded—nice but nothing fancy. The service is friendly and laid back, but it's not particularly attentive.
But if you ask the locals in Rockford, Illinois, many will tell you Marc's is one of the best restaurants in town.
The fusion in the restaurant's name comes from an interesting combination of steaks and chops, Asian-influenced dishes and sushi. We didn't explore the steak and chop side of the menu, but what we did try was fantastic.
Our friends Mitch and Lisa joined us on a recent Wednesday night, and the place was full when we arrived around 7 p.m.
Marc's doesn't take reservations, so you may find yourself waiting for a table. Luckily, our friends arrived early and secured a table at the back of the long, narrow dining room.
We started with a couple of delicious appetizers. The shrimp shumai ($6) were delicate steamed dumplings that practically melted in your mouth.
The showstopper was the prawn and crab cakes ($9), which were lightly fried and served with a mango salsa. The flavors were as amazingly vibrant as they were fresh, sweet, spicy and salty in all the right ways. The cakes were delicious, but a bowl of that salsa alone would have been well worth the price.
The sushi menu is extensive, and the entrees sounded delicious. We ordered way too much food and ended up taking boxes of it home.
Among the rolled sushi, we ordered the Marc's Fusion ($10), shrimp tempura ($8), spicy tuna ($9) and negihama ($6), which is yellowtail tuna and green onions. Among the sushi choices, we ordered the hotategai ($3.50), ikura ($3.50) and maguro ($3.50).
The sushi rolls were outstanding—huge rolls bursting with fresh ingredients, beautifully cooked sticky rice and exceptional fish. They were a real value.
It was all excellent, but the spicy tuna was a bit surprising in that it was actually spicy—so be prepared if you order it. The menu also includes some rolls that use fajita ingredients, fried chicken and other unusual ingredients. We weren't feeling particularly adventurous, but they definitely were intriguing.
The scallop, salmon roe and tuna used for the individual pieces of sushi were beautifully prepared and presented. Each piece of sushi was generously sized and delicious.
For entrees, we shared the scallops with wasabi pepper sauce ($20, and $3 additional for fried rice). The scallops were large, lightly seared and drizzled with that delicious sauce.
Despite using two ingredients known for their heat, the sauce was spicy but not too spicy. It didn't overwhelm the delicately flavored scallops. The dish was served with a generous helping of ginger asparagus that was tender and delicious.
The fried rice also was worth the extra cost, as it contained egg, meat and vegetables. You can tell Marc's puts effort into its rice, which isn't always the case when you order fried rice as a side.
You also can order the fried rice as an entree ($4.50-$10). It would be a good choice.
Our second entree was the tuna kabobs ($21), which were also served with ginger asparagus and steamed rice that we upgraded to fried. The huge chunks of tuna were marinated in a ginger soy sauce and lightly grilled to rare. They, too, were exceptionally good. The tuna had a gorgeous, meaty yet silky taste that paired nicely with the fried rice.
We were having such a lovely evening that we wound up closing down the place (it was 8:30 p.m., so not crazy late). We knew it was time to leave when we could smell the bleach in the kitchen, and all the chairs were sitting on top of the tables. It wasn't rude of the staff—it was just time to go home.
It seemed like the perfect way to end an evening at Marc's Fusion Cafe. Unassuming and awesome, it's all about the food without the fuss.
If you like sushi and Asian flavors, it's worth the short trip across the border.
—Joan Neeno is a freelance writer who reviews regional restaurants for The Gazette.