|Seafood udon w/tempura shrimp|
For years, I have ragged on reviews that employ the line about "I can't believe it's in a strip center." Yet I was still wide-eyed to find a pretty, wood-paneled dining room at Fuji in Ellicott City. Jean had written that the food was delicious, but I expected something super-casual like Mango Grove or Hanamura.
But Fuji is a little gem. Very friendly, but dressed up with white tablecloths and artistic bowls and plates.
We followed Jean's advice and ordered a seafood udon noodles and three sushi rolls. And we got a bonus! Small salads, which were fine. Then miso soup, which was excellent. Strong miso flavor without any saltiness or fishiness. There is just something fun about getting a morsel extra.
If anything, the udon was better. It's a large bowl of soup with noodles. The flavors are rich and almost sweet. The bowl was full of tempura shrimp, squid, octopus and mushrooms. Jean had touted Fuji as run by a Japanese couple and the udon as based on a scratch dashi broth. It lived up to her recommendation. Perfect comfort food. Warm for the winter, but light enough to eat all year long.
We liked our other rolls as well. Mrs. HowChow is really a devote of the Sushi Sono / Sushi King style of roll -- often with multiple fish in a single roll and generally with fish on the outside. She doesn't crave the flavor of seaweed, and the texture on the outside of a traditional roll gets more chewy, less fish-and-rice flavor than she wants. Fuji does the sushi right, but next time I am going to try the sashimi or sushi pieces to emphasize the fish.
In the end, it's an affordable restaurant as well. Lots of entrees under $15 and rolls starting at $6. I joked with Mrs. HowChow that it's a perfect second date restaurant -- quiet and classy enough to be romantic, but nothing that will break the bank.
Next time, I may try to bring a group to the Japanese-style table at the front of the restaurant. I also should have ordered tea. A restaurant that does miso soup so beautifully probably serves excellent tea. If you go, consider crossing Rte 40 for dessert at Bon Appetit Bakery.
Pine Orchard Shopping Center
10226 Baltimore National Pike (Rte 40)
Ellicott City, MD 21042
NEAR: Fuji is on Rte 40 west of Rte 29 and west of Bethany Lane. It is on the north side in a small shopping center.