In physics, fusion describes two light nuclei combining to release energy in copious quantities. In Humboldt, world cuisines combine at Le Monde, a French-esque restaurant in Eureka with a menu that roves the planet, offering a range of flavors from tandoori-baked cauliflower, Thai soup and ramen noodles to duck breast in red wine reduction.

Asian fusion, anyone? The energetic menus of the Sushi Spot in Arcata and McKinleyville boast more than 100 offerings from shooters to nigiri to curry to tempura. Several items incorporate flavors of California's North Coast like oysters, fresh Dungeness crab, smoked albacore and — members of the Trinidad mustard cult rejoice! — Larrupin mustard-dill sauce. Turns out Humboldt's a fine place to get mixed up.

click to enlarge Grilled brie with bacon and apples. - AMY KUMLER. STYLING BY LYNN LEISHMAN.
  • Amy Kumler. Styling by Lynn Leishman.
  • Grilled brie with bacon and apples.

Le Monde

From space, the Earth appears a disc of energy in greens and blues, frosted with cloud action. Zoom in to street view and there's Le Monde restaurant, Henderson Center, Eureka, California, where silver lights descend from the ceiling like shooting stars forever fixed at the moment of explosion.

Scents of spice and sizzling butter waft from the kitchen. Rectangles of garnet ahi, edges charred, arrive artfully arranged atop dark greens. My seared ahi salad ($15) is topped with a solar orange mass of deep fried yam threads. My husband and I sit by the window, sipping the house Côtes du Rhone ($8), and watching the world go by on F Street.

Le Monde is French for "the world." In Paris, it's a renowned newspaper. On the North Coast, Le Monde is a fine dining establishment in the space formerly known as Zoë, across from the Toy Box. Locals may remember owners Alex Begovic and Soleil Deknatel, who run Uniquely Yours Catering, as the folks who ran long-closed Hurricane Kate's in Old Town.

A few menu items reflect those République Française roots. For starters, there's succulent French onion soup topped with crostini. Instead of rich tangy Gruyere, the soup's topped with Swiss and parmesan. My husband Dave orders the soup ($5/cup; $9 bowl) because we're on a lifelong quest in search of the perfect French onion soup. I ordered a seared ahi salad because culinary fusion is Le Monde's thing. Dave enjoys his soup, yet he eyes my salad. We swap. He notes the tastiness of the tamari/sesame dressing and the firm cool fish. I savor the soup and order a grilled cheese.

Le Monde's grilled Brie with bacon and thinly sliced apples ($10) impresses me as simultaneously decadent and nutritious — warm, rinded cheese is a centrifuge for naughty bacon but also healthful slices of crisp apple. Of the bread choices proffered, pick house-baked French for the win. Crumbly crust, light inner crumb. The power of bread compels me.

Also house-made is the flakey crust on Le Monde's pot pies ($10), savory pastries packed with chicken, beef or mushrooms. The ultimate comfort food.

All things fusion extends to Le Monde's dinner menu. Though the menu changes monthly, exotic 'round-the-world cuisine might include cauliflower bites baked tandoori style ($10), Thai tomato soup with coconut milk ($8), bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with maple syrup glaze ($18) and house-made ramen noodles with miso broth, shitake mushrooms, peas and carrots — vegetarian ($15) or with wild prawns ($24). Who's racking up frequent flier miles now?

At the end of any meal, Le Monde is the go-to joint for crème brûlée ($7). You can enjoy the glorious Tahitian vanilla, of course, or the brulee of the day, which happened, for us, to be coconut.

click to enlarge The sushi bar at the McKinleyville location. - AMY KUMLER. STYLING BY LYNN LEISHMAN.
  • Amy Kumler. Styling by Lynn Leishman.
  • The sushi bar at the McKinleyville location.

Sushi Spot

Perhaps begin with the Full Moon Shooter ($5.95) with uni and quail egg, spicy ponzu sauce and fresh lemon. A masterpiece of golds in a clear glass. Yolk, meet sea urchin and its ocean flavor. Salt, here's tang.

Release the endorphins. Bring on the fish.

Sushi Spot in Arcata, a stone's throw east of the plaza on Ninth Street, is the mother ship for Sushi Spot McKinleyville, opened in 2013 by owner and creative sushi genius Eric Stark.

"Every time I'm here, I just love it." So says a Blue Lake artist friend blissing out with me at the Arcata sushi bar. A chef slices salmon thin, rolls sticky seasoned rice into a satisfying nugget, affixes salmon to rice. Beauty in simplicity.

click to enlarge The Tokyo Mule. - AMY KUMLER. STYLING BY LYNN LEISHMAN.
  • Amy Kumler. Styling by Lynn Leishman.
  • The Tokyo Mule.

I order a Toyko Mule ($6.50) while I hang out at the bar. It's a Moscow Mule with the Japanese distilled shochu in place of vodka, made with spicy ginger beer and fresh lime. It's so good I've purchased shochu to make this drink at home. It's not the same.

Did I mention that Sushi Spot's menu offers more than 100 items? So difficult to choose. The compact Arcata location lends itself to convivial conversations as you peruse the offerings, while in the McKinleyville branch, you can ponder your options gazing into the tropical fish tank in the center of the dining room.

For starters, we'll take the three-color butsugiri with fresh hamachi, ahi, avocado, spices, green onions, seeds and masago ($14.95). I order ahi tuna nigiri ($5.95) because I must. And, ah, lemon salmon nigiri ($5.75) — a flavor mesh of tangy rice and tart citrus.

Sushi Spot makes several place-based rolls with a North Coast vibe, like the Trinidad ($9.25), with its plentiful helping of smoked albacore, avocado, green onion, and Larrupin Swedish-style mustard-dill sauce.

"I don't like mustard," says my daughter, reading the online menu. "But Larrupin dill isn't mustard."

Fresh Dungeness crab headlines the Kani Crunch ($15.95), with tempura prawn, eel sauce, chili miso sauce, green onions and masago in supporting roles. My top house roll pick, though, goes to the Klamath ($11.95), with wild salmon katsu, avocado, seeds, dynamite sauce, green onions and tempura crunchies.

Dining on sushi is like ingesting "pure helium for dinner," writes food reviewer Troy Johnson. "As if a burdensome part of you dislodges, turns into a mist, goes away." My family calls this a sushi high. That's how we feel as we consume every bite, debating our favorites and planning our next order.

  • Amy Kumler. Styling by Lynn Leishman.
  • A Vegetarian Roll.
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Deidre Pike

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