Fusion 9 is Silicon Valley’s (America’s?) first drive-thru Indian restaurant, and it represents the Indianization of American food. Or maybe it’s the Americanization of Indian food. Whatever it is, the El Camino Real restaurant is an intriguing bit of culinary anthropology in the making.

To me Fusion 9 sounds like some radioactive material from a low-budget science fiction movie (“Behold! I’ve isolated the dilithium crystals and produced a powerful substance the likes of which the world has never seen: Fusion 9!”)

Drive up and place your order at a garish red and yellow sign with a speaker that looks like a boombox from 1983. That’s part of the fun. The predictably garbled, static-ridden voice comes out of the void to ask for your order. It was hard to make out what she said when I drove through, but I barked out my order and heard “Please proceed to the window” in a singsong Indian accent. I did as I was asked.

The food at Fusion 9 isn’t great. There’s much better Indian food up and down El Camino. I tried about half the menu, a.k.a. the Fusion Jumbo Pack ($24.99). The heavy bag of food contains decent naan (kept warm in a foil lined paper bag), a chicken/cheese kebab, chicken dum biryani, goat dum biryani and a choice of goat or chicken curry.


I went for the goat, and it was pretty good. I liked the juicy, tandoor-cooked kebabs, but there was no cheese in evidence. The goat biryani was decent, too. But then I’m a sucker for goat. The fact that you can get goat from drive-thru window is what’s really interesting. And the dish was ready in about three minutes.

Unlike many El Camino Real Indian restaurants that specialize in south Indian vegetarian food and chaat, Fusion 9 is meat-centric. There are a few vegetarian dishes, but they are not the restaurant’s strong suit. There’s also a side menu of Indo-Chinese classics: chicken Manchurian ($5.99), ginger chicken ($5.49) and egg-fried rice ($5.49). The paneer chicken and tikka chicken wraps ($5.99 and $6.99 respectively) are good drive-thru options, too

But the fact that you can get an armful of decent Indian food in just minutes without leaving your car is noteworthy. I’d rather get out of my car and take my time to eat, but I know that’s an option many people don’t always have. So Fusion 9 does fill a niche. You can eat inside the restaurant, but it’s pretty nondescript in there. Best to stick to the comfort of your own car.

For me, Fusion 9 adds another dimension to the ever-changing culinary scene of El Camino Real. I’ve long maintained that El Camino between Santa Clara and Sunnyvale is Silicon Valley’s best street of eats. The road is dominated by Korean and Indian restaurants of all different kinds, but there are also Japanese, Chinese, Persian, Vietnamese and even Afghani restaurants that make El Camino an endless source of cheap eats and culinary discovery.

Once upon a time, El Camino was a street of white-bread American restaurants and traditional fast-food outlets, but as Silicon Valley’s ethnic stew has grown more diverse, so too has El Camino. Now you see not only a drive-thru Indian restaurant but also Korean restaurants occupying old Taco Bell buildings and entire shopping centers devoted to regional food from South Asia with nary a McDonald’s in sight. Fusion 9 is owned by the folks at Dosa Place, a good restaurant that offers a different kind of fast food in its own right.

Fast food ain’t what it used to be, and that’s a good thing.