Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Trolling: Sushi, Udon and Teriyaki At Fuji; Join Jean At Ellicott City's Japanese Spot

Jean just moved back to Howard County after time in NYC, and she wants to troll her three items all from the same restaurant.  To Jean, it's a special restaurant -- Fuji on Rte 40 just west of Bethany Lane in Ellicott City.  

Fuji is a "Mom and Pop" joint with a Japanese chef.  It's nothing fancy, just fresh, authentic sushi and dishes that Jean says taste like Japanese home cooking.  Jean says Fuji looks emptier than she remembers, and she wants to talk up the kind couple who own the place and their food:
For straightforward simple pure Japanese food, Fuji is the real deal. Its the only one with a Japanese chef (all the other ones, even Sushi Sono, are run by Chinese or Koreans). Again, there are no fancy rolls or special items, but for simple, fresh, authentic sushi and flavorful udon and teriyaki, I don't want to go anywhere else in the county personally. 
The couple that runs the place is so kind and the some of the food tastes like traditional Japanese home cooking. It's not the type of place that can handle a lot of business anyway, but for it to be so empty, it really does break my heart.  You should check out: 
  • Sushi: The platter here is the Deluxe Sushi combo, with an array of the freshest fish of the day. What I love about Fuji’s sushi is that it is pure, traditional sushi. These are authentic bite-size pieces (not the monster-slab kind some people think are the best) of buttery, melt-in-your-mouth fish. You can tell the chef has a knack for choosing the most tender cuts of the fish. The sushi rice is seasoned with the right balance of vinegar and sweetness. The rolls have a nice no-holds-barred wasabi kick to them. The variety of items perhaps isn’t the widest around, but perhaps it’s because the chef wants to stick to what’s best each day.
  • Udon:  The udon at the top of the post is one of my all-time favorites. You can taste the greater subtlety of flavor in the made-from-scratch dashi broth (not your typical instant salty stock served at most pseudo-Japanese places). The noodles are appropriately soft and soothing. The seafood version shown here has a delightful array of shrimp, octopus, fishcakes, and sometimes a soft-shell crab fritter. It comes out piping hot in a ceramic traditional bowl, a steaming pot of Japanese comfort food.
  • Teriyaki:  The homemade teriyaki BBQ sauce here is the best around. It hits the right notes of sweet and savory with its notes of smokiness and orange essence. Each plate of meat comes out on a sizzling metal dish, with a small array of broccoli and a bowl of rice. The chicken comes out with both white and dark bite-size cuts of meat; the beef is a sliced up cut of steak; and the saba (mackerel) is the most Japanese of the dishes, with its pleasantly charred crispy skin. 
I haven't been to Fuji yet, although Jean's recommendations make me want to try all three of the dishes that she suggests. 
Trolling on Tuesday is my attempt at a series where readers would share three things with other HowChow readers -- favorite restaurant dishes, food to buy, food experiences, etc.  Click here for all the Trolling posts.  Click here for the explanation and the rules.  Anyone can submit.


HowChow said...

Because a friend highlighted this point out of Jean's post, I figure it is worth saying explicitly that there is no reason why sushi chefs need to be Japanese.

Jean highlights the things that make Fuji unique, and there may be some specific Japanese elements that you'll see at Fuji.

But I can't get enough of the sushi at Sono, the King, and other local places. They're spectacular, and I'm far more interested in what kitchens are doing with food than where they came from.

Great 2007 article from the WPost: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/22/AR2007022202036.html

Anonymous said...

Maybe there's "no reason why sushi chefs need to be Japanese" if you have developed a taste for the faux sushi they serve at the restaurants you mention. In other words, if you like plain, unseasoned, improperly cooked white rice and huge slabs of low grade fish, any old place selling "sushi" will do. But it's not actual sushi and it's no more "Japanese food" as is typically billed in those Korean-owned and run businesses than Olive Garden is "Italian cuisine."

Akiko said...

Well.. I'm going to have to agree on this one with Anonymous and the person who wrote the post... With me being half Japanese, it really bothers me when I see a Japanese restaurant and to find that the owners are not Japanese.. I know it may sound weird or even pc but I guess the point is that when any restaurant who claims to be authentic-ethnic-anything and they make/concoct their version of what is authentic,and we know it isn't, is deceiving. And insulting. Sooooo many places here will have Japanese items on the menu but when you eat it, it's like what the...? Many Korean foods and ingredients are very similar to Japanese food, so that I can deal with. But my experience eating around here with Chinese owners are wrong on all levels. I had ordered a spicy ahi bowl at a restaurant and it was made with chunks of bread and butter pickles and pickle juice. Ask me how I know so, because they left the pickle as a decorative item. No, not pickled ginger or daikon, a pickle. A pickle! Also, if you go to a real Japanese restaurant with a Japanese guy from Japan making your sushi, I can almost guarantee you that person went to a specialized school in Japan to make sushi, no joke there. But I guess that would be rare find because it seems like the sushi chefs either stay in Japan, or find jobs in Hawaii, Cali or NYC. If there is a Japanese sushi chef in Bmore, somebody please let me know! Sushi is a science!

I don't have a problem with what race you are when making "authentic" ethnic food but I wish some places would keep it real.

Anonymous said...

Alas, Aikiko, it's not in the Baltimore area at all, in fact, it's over the bridge in Delaware, but I recently discovered a phenomenal, affordable *authentic* Japanese restaurant if you're ever in Wilmington. It's Takumi at Independence Mall, 1601 Concord Pike. They have some spectacular original small dishes along with sushi and sashimi that honestly, took my taste buds back to Tsukiji. I know I'll be coming up with some excuses to go to Wilmington this spring specifically so I can eat there.

Kim D. said...

If you haven't eaten at Fuji, go there today. It is a wonderful place with fresh, fabulous food. It is our favorite sushi place in all of Columbia/Ellicott City. Yes, each sushi place has a different character and "flavor" but we go to Fuji three times for each one visit to any other place. And we go a good bit because sushi is our family's favorite food.

The chef at Fuji doesn't speak great English, but he is warm, funny and a delight. We first went there when our son was 9, right after we moved to Columbia. We sat at the tiny bar, and the chef was delighted to know our son ate sushi. During our meal, he kept giving us little gifts to try. The sushi was outstanding - more like the real deal I'd had in California. The whole experience was more like what I'd had at sushi bars in California, and I like it better than the atmosphere at the other sushi places close by. Fuji really is a gem, as are its owners. If you haven't been there, do yourself a favor and go. Do the county a favor and support a small business. Your sushi loving self will thank you and all of us Fuji lovers will thank you too.

dzoey said...

I tried Fuji this evening. I had been there about fifteen years ago for sushi and hadn't been impressed. Trying it again, I found that the Japanese food there is very good. I'm still not a fan of their rolls, but the sushi is OK.

But...go to Fuji for the Japanese food. It's the real deal as far as I can tell. The noodles are yummy and the sauces spot on. Even comfort food, like Oyako-don (chicken, egg, onion, rice) was better than usual and presented nice.

I'm still not a fan of their rolls - the rice is too gummy and tangy for my taste, but I will return for the soups, noodles, and cooked food.

kam said...

dzoey - I was there tonight, too, thanks to this post, so I wonder if our times at the restaurant overlapped. ;)

I got the Special Sushi combo and my husband got the yakisoba. I really enjoyed both. The fish was really tender and I liked the fact that the wasabi was placed in between the fish and rice for the nigiri sushi and inside the roll for the tekka maki. I've heard that's how it's supposed to be done, but I've been in very few places that do it that way. I think it spreads the flavor of the wasabi much better throughout the entire piece. (Not so good if you don't like wasabi, but I always use it.) The rice seemed fine to me; it is a bit less firm than I've had some places, but I didn't object to the taste.

The yakisoba was fun, too. I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone, but the noodles were the right amount of firm and chewy. I don't actually remember yakisoba at too many of the other places in the area.

I don't get up that end of Route 40 very often, but if I am up that way around dinnertime, I'd like to return and try the udon or the teriyaki.

Also, are there any places around here that serve okonomiyaki? We had the most awesome time at a grill-your-own place in the LA suburbs last year, and while I know there won't be anything quite like that around here, I've been craving the food lately.