Frank and Zhangji (also known as Vivian) Dominick worked for others for many years—he as a district sales manager and she as a computer programmer for the Pennsylvania Senate. The intrepid couple, longing to be in control of their own destiny, set the wheels in motion several years ago to start their own business.
Vivian, a Shanghai native, knew more than most about Asian cuisine and Frank, originally from Baltimore, was game for learning as the couple toyed with the concept of opening a restaurant. They bounced the idea off a few friends who owned restaurants in China and, after visiting the country in 2007, they decided to take the plunge. “They gave us a lot of pointers, and the idea of opening a restaurant of our own resonated with them, so they became our mentors,” said Frank.
When the husband and wife team learned that the building located conveniently across from the restaurant supply store on Simpson Ferry Road in Camp Hill was available, they jumped at the opportunity to purchase the property. Construction began while they worked full-time at their day jobs.
Today, the New Cumberland residents, who have been married seven years, devote their time exclusively to the establishment and work well together as a team. He runs the back of the house, she the front.
Upon entering the BYOB, one is immediately aware that this isn’t your typical Chinese restaurant. Their slogan, “luxury dining can be affordable,” is evident in the feel of the décor, featuring rich dark woods and etched glass panels that separate various sections of the room. Luxurious gold chandeliers contribute to the upscale atmosphere. To maintain authenticity, the couple had everything made in China and shipped to the restaurant.
One of the bigger challenges the couple has faced is the misconception that they’re a typical Asian place. “A lot of the food available is unhealthy and commercialized. When people think of Asian food, they think ‘takeout.’ We wanted to create a restaurant where we, as a couple, would choose to dine—where everything is made to order and all the ingredients are fresh,” said Frank.
The cuisine features sushi, Thai, Asian and hotpot, along with a bit of Vietnamese sprinkled in for good measure. That turned out to be a good idea since the Vietnamese beef, described as sliced steak in an aromatic sauce served over a bed of onions, is one of their most popular entrees.
For those unfamiliar with hotpot, it’s an Asian tradition dating back 1,000 years, according to Frank. The dining experience, meant to be communal, centers around a simmering pot of stew that takes center stage in the middle of the table and is kept hot by built-in induction burners. Diners choose from a variety of meats ranging from kobe beef to pork and lamb. Seafood like scallops and prawns are also an option, along with noodles and a variety of vegetables and dipping sauces. Patrons then proceed to cook their own meals.
“We offer two flavors of broth. People can mix and match to their taste. Vegetarians can dine with people who eat meat, and those who don’t enjoy spicy foods can eat with those who do,” said Vivian.
On a recent visit, the parking lot was full during the restaurant’s weekly “sushi club night,” where patrons can order off the regular menu or opt for the chef’s selection. A sampler platter features 10 pieces of five types of rolls, which are also offered on the menu.
When my husband and I visited, we ordered the platter, and each piece was flavorful, fresh and delicious. If we were forced to crown a favorite, however, it would be the fire roll comprised of lightly breaded, smoked salmon, eel and cream cheese, topped with hot sauce and caviar. Every bite was a delight.
A group of Harrisburg residents dined nearby in a separate room they reserved for the evening. Robyn and Sara Sitz joined Nate Melton and Mike Kravanis in sampling the chef’s selections.
Melton said he learned about the business during the construction phase and wasted no time asking the owners if they would be up for hosting a diversity networking group. The place was a hit with the group, and he has been returning ever since, keeping a long-standing date with friends every Thursday for sushi club night.
“This place is always consistent in both flavor and quality,” said Melton. “The owners are very involved, and they care about the food. No one cuts any corners here.”
Kravanis agreed. “This isn’t your standard Chinese fare. They use fresh ingredients, and it makes for a very upscale experience.”
Robyn said her favorite dish is the tropical mango chicken, which marries bell pepper and onion in a spicy mango sauce, while Sara’s favorite is the drunken noodle, a Thai concoction that features stir-fried noodles, with fresh basil and a choice of chicken, beef or shrimp.
Sara said the service is top notch as well. “The staff here is very nice,” she said.
Despite being in business for just a few years, the Dominicks have successfully mastered the art of melding excellent cuisine with a fine dining experience—and that’s just the right the recipe for many happy returns.
Fusion Fire is located at 3421 Simpson Ferry Rd., Camp Hill. For more, call 717-731-1188 or visit www.fusionfire.com.