The restaurant world has many terms that get bandied about pretty liberally in the service of gussying things up and reeling in patrons. Take, for example, the words “artisanal,” “natural” and “fresh.” While on their surface all those things sound great, in reality, all too often, they are meaningless.

Another term that frequently leaves me mystified is “fusion.” When done correctly, fusion is a blend of cultures and cuisines that can leave gormandizers with such marvels as Indian pizza and sushi burritos. Which brings me to The Place Japanese Fusion Bistro.

As I perused the menu, I was unable to see exactly what was so “fusion” about it. After consulting a cohort, our best guess was that their apps are served in a sort of tapas style. Otherwise, it was the usual cast of characters one would expect to find at a typical ramen house.

Speaking of menus, The Place’s might be one of the most curated I’ve encountered. With less than a dozen regular items and a small handful of daily specials, selecting was pretty simple. The Place’s menu changes occasionally, and I was a bit disappointed to see that their much-hyped duck shoyu ramen was not being served. However, it was replaced with an equally interesting shrimp butter ramen ($13.50) which I had to get. While my girlfriend decided to try their traditional spicy miso tonkotsu ($12.50). Delving into their, ahem, “tapas” we decided on the geso karaage ($7) and the hotate with garlic butter ($9).

First out were the apps, and they were both delightful. The geso (squid) was fried-up perfectly. It still had a bit of chew and was not overly ensconced in batter. The hotate (scallops) were tender and bathed in a heavenly blend of brown butter and garlic that made our taste buds dance.

Upon their arrival, the ramens filled the air with their delicious aromas and fed our eyes with their beautiful presentation. Both the broths and their noodles are made in house, and I had added some Kurobuta pork chashu ($1.75) to go along with concomitant sous-vide pork. The Place prides itself on its broths being MSG-free. Indeed, the broth was light and clean tasting, and it didn’t have that punch-you-in-the-mouth flavor. We found the spicy miso broth more nuanced and flavorful than their standard one-note tonkotsu.

The Place’s noodles were thin and spaghetti-like, as opposed to the thicker, chewier variety found at my personal favorite, Orenchi Ramen. That said, they did have a nice eggy flavor, and they were quite generous with them. Both shoyu eggs were cooked perfectly and had creamy yolks to go along with the soy-flavored whites.

We found the sous-vide pork to be superior to the Kurobuta, as the former just melted in our mouths. Evidently, the “shrimp” in my shrimp butter ramen came out in the form of a Chinese-like dumpling. Maybe this was the fusion that they had been hyping? Regardless, it was a tasty and tender surprise.

For dessert, The Place offers two matcha-inspired dishes—alternating service of either a matcha tiramisu ($6.50) or a matcha crème brûlée ($5.50). On this night it turned out to be the crème brûlée, and it was simply divine. The lightly sweetened matcha-flavored custard was a taste combo I had never before encountered, and the creamy and sweet adzuki bean paste bottom layer was a pleasant surprise.

Don’t come to the The Place expecting amazing fusion combos like a ramen taco or sushi pizza. Instead, come expecting classic Japanese dishes with a slight twist, and very solid bowl of ramen. Honestly, that’s just fine with me.

The Place Japanese Fusion Bistro
5229 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara