There are a handful of Japanese places in the Lougheed/North Road area, a couple of them are of note because they are Japanese-run. One of them is Fuji Sushi, in Burquitlam Plaza, right next door to Paros Taverna, a Greek restaurant. We've been to Fuji numerous times and have never been disappointed by the the food. However, we hadn’t eaten at Fuji’s in quite a while, so we decided to pay a visit late last week. The restaurant was half full when we arrived, but soon after the place filled up. Customers were a Japanese, other Asians and Caucasians, a pretty good mix.
The restaurant is on the small side, with a front section of tables that seats around 20 people and a back section of small Japanese screened dining ‘rooms’, which are generally for larger groups. A sushi bar takes up about a quarter of the room, and you can sit at the bar and observe the chefs make your sushi if you are so inclined. The restaurant has the same cozy feel as a lot of other modest Japanese restaurants; the space is comfortable looking, with green walls, wood paneling, blown-up photographs from Japanese festivals, and black tables and chairs.
We sat down at a table and were promptly brought cups of green tea. It was a very good green tea, I might add. We decided on a few small dishes to share.
First was the Spinach Gomaae ($3.25), which arrived in a neat little pile in a small bowl. Fuji’s version is very simple, with minimal dressing and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. I liked this version, because you can actually taste the spinach. I’ve had many other versions where the sauce totally overwhelmed the spinach. It’s a matter of preference, I suppose.
We also ordered the Ika Geso ($3.00), or grilled squid legs. The legs/tentacles are my favourite parts of the squid, and this dish made me happy. The slightly charred legs were carefully arranged on a small blue and white rectangular plate, piled one on top of another in a puddle of sauce. This was delicious—the tentacles were chewy yet still tender enough to bite, and there was a distinct grilled taste. This was so good that we had to savour this, one little bite at a time to prolong the texture pleasure.
Another little appetizer we got was the Chicken Karaage ($4.25), which were actually four pieces of boneless, battered, deep fried chicken thigh (one piece actually looked like it had been accidentally half-coated in tempura batter as well). It came with, puzzlingly, a little side of Chinese style hot and sour sauce, which actually tasted pretty good with the chicken. The chicken pieces were delicious: the batter was brown, crispy and very well seasoned, and the dark meat was moist and tender.
For Nigiri sushi, we got 2 pieces each of Tuna ($1.25 each), Tako (octopus, $1.75 each), and Anago (sea eel, $2.50 each). These arrived on a traditional sushi geta, or a wooden ‘platform’. The tuna was fresh tasting and the rice was well seasoned and cooked well, but the highlights were the Tako and Anago. I love tako, and so many sushi restaurants don’t prepare it well—the tako is either too tough and/or has lost all its flavour. I’ve had moments where it’s all chew, chew, chew. Fuji does octopus well: first of all it’s so nicely presented, with a thin maki ribbon around the ‘waist’ of the sushi like a tiny black belt. The slices of tako were thick, generous, and so very tender with still some octopus (chewy) texture. Best of all was the flavour of the slices: each piece had a sweetness to it, but also that characteristic saltiness which comes from the creature living in the sea. The other thing we were impressed with was the Anago, or grilled eel. The fish was nicely seasoned with a kind of sweet soy, and it was cooked perfectly: the flesh of the eel was soft and fluffy and just melted in the mouth. I barely had to chew.
We also had a few rolls, California B (with real crab, $3.95), Spicy Tuna ($3.00) and Ume Shiso ($1.99), which sat on a beautiful curved wooden plate. I’m not a big fan of the standard California roll, because it's a boring taste, but this one with real crab was especially good. This didn’t need to be dipped in soy, because the natural saltiness and taste of the crab does it all. Amazing, you can taste the ingredient! So good.
The spicy tuna roll was also great--large chunk of tuna with straight up chili (Sriracha) sauce, with barely a hint of (if any) mayo. This left a nice heat in our mouths. Really enjoyed it.
One of the reasons I like Fuji is that they have the Ume Shiso roll, which contains umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) and shiso (a slightly pungent, minty Japanese leaf). The pickled plum is extremely salty and sour, but in this roll it gives the rice a good kick (the chef puts in just the right amount, this is very important). The shiso leaf gives the roll an stringent herbal quality, and giving the umeboshi a nice, strong back bone. The sour, saltiness, rice, and herbal taste of the roll wakes up your all the tiny little papillae of your tongue. Most Japanese restaurants don’t have this roll for some reason. I suppose it’s because most people don’t like it (for the record, my DH hates this roll; he says it tastes like a “dirty sock”), so it’s for people with sour/salty tooth, if there is such a thing. But personally, this roll is one of my favourite things to eat.
This is a bit of a side note, but the pickled ginger here is extremely good. It’s not (dyed) pink like a lot of places, but the ginger is a fresh light yellow, and it is tasty and strong. Stronger than the usual ginger you get at most places, I must say. It twinkles your toes, shivers your timbers, pulls up your boots…etc.
Fuji is a rare find--always reliable and consistent, and is a great place to go if you’re looking for an authentic Japanese restaurant in the area. The fish is always fresh, the ingredients are top notch, and you’ll find dishes that you wouldn’t necessary find in other Japanese restaurants. The service is kind and polite, the prices are affordable and most important of all, the food is delicious.