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Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011

Juto's World Fusion Stands Out

Asian cuisine leads the way at this undiscovered gem

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In a neighborhood known mainly for Mexican restaurants such as La Fuente, La Perla and Botanas, the Asian-fusion restaurant Juto stands out from the pack. Located in a vintage building last occupied by Il Mito, Juto offers two dining areas. The front room features a bar and high-top tables, while the other room offers more typical dining tables. A pool table sits in the center.

The menu is not strictly Asian fusion. Perhaps “world fusion” would be more accurate, allowing for items like Parmesan garlic chicken wings, sliders and a very decent Cuban sandwich. Most items qualify as “small plates.”

Where do you begin with such a diverse menu? Try the cheese steak pot stickers ($5). The flavors of Philadelphia are found in the filling of rib-eye steak, onion and provolone in a puree. The pot stickers are served between thin slices of red radish and with a tangy mustard sauce. This type of food is a trend that I experienced on my last visit to Hong Kong, in which nontraditional ingredients were used in dim sum and sushi. Another example here is peppercorn steak sushi ($6), thin slices of filet mignon with fried garlic, mustard seed vinaigrette, a sprinkling of scallions and a dash of Asian barbecue sauce. It's very nontraditional, but rather remarkable.

You will also find an item as simple as the Juto fries ($3), which are offered as curry Cajun or Parmesan garlic. The curry Cajun leans more toward curry than Cajun, and they are simply the best frites to be found in this area. Fantastic!

Fried stuffed provolone meatballs ($6), with a bread-crumb coating and served over a distinctive tomato sauce, hint at Italy. The house salad ($7) aims for Asia. The assorted greens are very fresh and ringed by thin cucumber slices. Kimchi vinaigrette arrives on the side. The flavors differ from traditional kimchi—there is sesame oil and a dash of hot pepper flavor, but none of the garlic that permeates cabbage kimchi. Still, it is a very good salad dressing.

An Asian fusion menu seems to demand lettuce wraps. Here you will find kalbi wraps ($7), minced short ribs with Korean spices, pickled cucumber and bacon bean curd. A half head of iceberg lettuce accompanies the dish.

One item that defies the term “small plate” is the Vietnamese pho, a big, steaming bowl of noodle soup served Saturday and Sunday. Juto's special pho ($9) adds all kinds of beef parts, including brisket, round, tripe and tendon. The beef pho ($8) is tamer, with thin slices of beef added to the steaming broth at the last moment. This may be the best pho in the city. The key is the fine flavor of the broth, as well as the wide array of condiments (there is a plate of raw bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapeno slices, lime wedges and ultra-fresh Asian basil). Side dishes include slices of dried garlic and shallot plus two house-made hot pepper sauces. If this is not enough, there are also bottles of fish sauce, hoisin sauce, sriracha and oyster sauce. Keep it fairly simple and you will be rewarded with an excellent soup.

It's been easy to find a seat at every visit, but this place should become more popular. Juto offers a fine, innovative kitchen and kindly prices that will not break the bank. Try to discover Juto before everybody else does.

Juto

605 W. Virginia St.

414-988-9115

$$

Credit Cards: MC, VS, DS

Handicap Accessible

jutorestaurantandbar.com