O Asian Fusion is housed in a freestanding building in a strip mall parking lot on one of Norman’s busiest corners. Even with extensive and tasteful exterior renovation, it’s still unmistakably a former Pizza Hut. But inside O, the dining room transformation is complete.
Hardwood floors, stone walls and a central flowing water sculpture grace the area filled with teak tables and chairs. Lights are low, adding to the intimate atmosphere.
“Unlike many Asian places, we’re not a buffet-style restaurant,” assistant manager Kindell Savoie said. “We also stand out with our bold flavors.”
What O does have is a very wide variety of dishes that use some of the best flavors from all around Asia’s vast culinary tradition. The team of chefs includes four Thai women who have worked there since the place opened.
“We also have sushi chefs from Japan and Vietnam,” Savoie said. “I’m American, but they’ve taught me how to roll sushi too.”
Sushi is among O’s most popular items. The individual maki, nigiri, sashimi, “chef’s signature” rolls, veggie rolls and sushi platters come in at just under 100 choices on the menu.
Know someone who has a persistent head cold and is a bit of a cranky pants? Feed them some tom kha soup ($4.95).
“Oh, it’s wonderful,” my companion said before slurping it all down. I managed to get one big taste, and it’s ambrosia in a bowl. The creamy coconut milk and chicken soup is delicately flavored with lemongrass, ginger and its cousin galangal, along with kaffir lime leaves.
O has salads, appetizers and a kind of design-it-yourself concept for main dishes. You choose among Chinese, Korean and Japanese styles of stir-fry preparation.
O pao chicken ($10.95), for instance, was O’s take on the classic Szechuan dish found in most Chinese-American restaurants. All the dishes we tried, including this medley of carrots, zucchini and peanuts in a dark piquant sauce, had the unmistakable taste of having just been prepared.
Our server asked what level of spicy on a 1 to 5 scale we wanted, which is another indication that the dish is being cooked to order.
Another option, crispy orange beef ($10.95), was a blast of ginger, garlic and orange zest flavor that was oh-so-good. It’s served with a choice of fried, jasmine or garlic rice.
O’s signature dishes are a carnivore’s dream. Look for rib-eye ($20.95), KC strip ($18.95), filet (10-ounce, $19.95) and yakiniku, Japanese barbecue, for $18.95.
“Our steaks don’t taste American at all,” Savoie explained. “They’re seared in a cast iron skillet and served with shitake mushrooms, Thai-truffle vegetables and grilled onions.”
O’s extensive menu deserves further exploration and another visit. The siren song of Thai red curry duck with pineapple, tomato and basil ($15.95) is quacking to me right now.