The Mendenhall Mall space adjoining the library has been home to a couple different establishments over the years. Now it has a new tenant that’s ready to use ancestral roots to keep business there up.
Fusion Cafe holds its grand opening at noon Sunday. The family-owned place is a full-service restaurant with catering, specializing in combining provincial Filipino and Asian cuisine. After all, northern Luzon in the Philippines is the proprietors’ ancestral home.
Those proprietors are Agnes and Ciso Uddipa, with their niece, Joselyn Uddipa Ribao, managing. The family has an extensive history in the culinary business, including locally. As the manager pointed out, this venture is the culmination of decades of expertise and dreaming.
“We’re hoping for a warm reception from the Juneau community and they’ll embrace us with open arms and give us a chance to wow them with our tasty savory dishes,” Ribao said.
She explained that the name “Fusion” refers to that combination of Filipino ingredients and spices along with Asian dishes, giving examples of such plates like pork apritada, Thai tofu and eggplant sauté.
“The types of dishes we’re showcasing are savory ethnic dishes,” she said.
The idea for Fusion comes from a lifetime of cooking, a lot of which came right here in Juneau after the family moved here from Hawaii.
Ribao describes them as a “very culinary-based family.” Her uncle, who also cooks for the restaurant, has worked in culinary positions for more than 30 years, including for the Alaska Marine Highway System and local restaurants.
A different aunt of hers was also a part of Juneau’s restaurant scene, once owning the Valley Restaurant and Breakwater Inn.
Ribao herself has been preparing for her role throughout her life, helping out at her family’s places since her teenage years.
“I’ve aspired to manage a family restaurant from ground level to the final stage, basically to put together a whole restaurant,” she said.
The owners did not give a statement, but Ribao said it’s been her uncle’s dream to have a place where he can really show off his culinary talents.
As for the location, Ribao said they were quietly looking for a place and stumbled onto this spot. They saw potential and believed they found they right one, beginning work on its opening process in April.
“I think finding this place has given us the opportunity to make our dreams a reality,” she said. “The challenge will be to introduce the Juneau community to authentic Filipino dishes.”
She said the area can also get a lot of traffic and that they are hoping for high exposure this way.
The restaurant’s window looks directly at another restaurant.
Ribao isn’t worried about the competition, saying they specialize in very different culinary choices. “There’s not one item on our menu that they have and vice versa,” she said.
Fusion Cafe’s hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Its phone number is 796-2021.
• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.