Friday, January 16, 2009

Dear Sushi, Get in my Face

Fuji Ya
600 W Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Fuji Ya on Urbanspoon

The Sushi craze has hit the Midwest hard over recent years. Before I moved from Iowa back to Minneapolis I even noticed a sushi/japanese steak house going up on the outskirts of Ames (I believe it has closed now...*cough*). In Minneapolis alone I know of a least 10 Asian/Japanese places that feature sushi only 10-15 minutes from where I live now. However, Fuji Ya was Minnesota's first Japanese restaurant (since 1959!). Fuji Ya has tons to offer even if you're not a huge raw fish fan (although I am). I went for a visit yesterday and it was great as usual.

Fuji Ya is located near the corner of Lyndale & Lake (LynLake for you Uptowners). This is a wonderful little corner for good food. And during the warmer months its an easy walk from anywhere in uptown.

There is a dining area which includes "authentic" Japanese seating on the floor in a quite private room and of course regular good ol' table seating. There is also a regular bar which allows you to dine from the regular and HH menus as well and a sushi bar where the chefs prepare your sushi right in front of you. During HH time you must sit on the bar side to get the good prices, and by the way, the HH there is great! During the spring and summer there is also a small semi-enclosed patio located on the parking lot side.

Speaking of parking...There is a large pay lot right next to Fuji Ya. It's only $1 per hour, so if you can't find free street parking this is the way to go. Make sure you bring some singles for the ticket machine and your lady of the night...Just kidding about the last part, but you do need cash for the parking lot.

Here's a little amateur sushi speak:
Nori is toasted dried seaweed
Roll means it has the fish, vegetables, or whatever rolled up with rice in nori via a sushi mat (generally made out of bamboo)
Hand Roll means the fish, vegetables, or whatever are rolled by hand with rice usually into a cone like shape
Maki is a smaller version of a roll usually consisting of only one kind of fish or vegetable in the middle (they are much smaller than a roll)
Nigiri is the style of sushi where a single piece of fish is placed on top of a small portion of rice
Sashimi is just the raw fish usually served in 3 pieces per order at Fuji Ya

Also, it is perfectly okay to use your hands (you'll get a fresh hot towel at the beginning of the meal to clean your hands). When eating sushi it is customary to eat the whole piece all at once.

If you're wondering about things on the menu just ask!

Edamame $5.25 (regular price)
Young soy beans boiled in the shell. They call it authentic Japanese "bar food". Seasoned with salt and served steaming. It's hard to tell who will like edamame and who won't. If you're a vegetable person you will probably enjoy. Although to be honest the soy beans remind me a little of lima beans with a less mushy texture. Don't let this throw you, try them out!

Gyoza $6.25 (regular price)
6 pieces of pork potstickers, steamed, then pan fried. Served with soy based dipping sauce. When I've ordered these from the HH menu they come fried and there are only 4. Still delicious and some of you may like the fried ones better. The filling is pork, green onion, and other seasonings.

I also recommend the Tuna Takati.

Sashimi Teishoku $19.25 (Chris' Dinner...)
This sashimi dinner consists of 5 varieties of fish (chef's choice, aka you don't get to pick) with miso soup and rice. Each variety includes 3 pieces of fish, so you get 15 pieces total. Chris got salmon, red snapper, octopus, ahi tuna, and hamachi (yellowtail). It was a beautiful presentation and a great amount of food for the price. You might think you wouldn't be able to fill up on raw fish, but think again. The fish was clean and fresh and the octopus had just the right texture.

Spicy Tuna Roll $6.95 (More of Chris' Dinner)
4 pieces of tuna marinated in spicy mayo sauce and rolled together with lettuce, kaiware sprouts (also know as Daikon sprouts like the radish), & gobo (a slender root vegetable similar to a carrot in taste and texture) with a nori (toasted seaweed) outside. This one has a bit of a kick, but really flavorful. Also, if you aren't a sashimi master yet specialty rolls are a good way to start out.

A little side note: Sushi is wonderful for many reasons, but it's great to try with a big group. Order lots, order a variety, and try it all!

Mr. B and I decided to pick a few and share...

Dynamite Roll $7.00
4 pieces of diced yellowtail seasoned with Tai chili pepper and a spicy chili bean sauce. The texture here is almost creamy. There is a lot of heat, so be careful. The yellowtail is rolled up with lettuce, kaiware sprouts and cucumber sticks. Great flavor and texture, no need for sauce or wasabi here. The pieces are big and have a beautiful presentation.

Toro Sashimi $7.95 (Market price varies)
My sister knows that I rave about this fish all the time. I first tried Toro at Miyabi 9 in the East Village of Des Moines, and I haven't got over it since. I will warn those of you who aren't completely in love with raw fish like I am - THIS IS RAW FISH. However, if your palate has become more accustomed to the true joys of sushi, this is a must have. The texture is smooth and creamy and the flavor is refreshing. The favor is bold, but at the same time does not have a hint of fishy-ness or ocean for that matter. I think if a Wagyu cow and a million dollar tuna had a baby Toro would be its name.

What I learned About - Toro:
Toro is a particular cut of the Blue Fin Tuna, the fatty belly to be more specific. Although Toro is technically in reference to the fatty belly part, true Toro comes only from the Blue Fin Tuna. Interesting fact there. The Toro we had at Fuji Ya was Big Eye Toro, which is perfectly acceptable, but according to, not true Toro (but still F-ing good). Some sushi restaurants also use the belly of the Yellow Fin for their Toro.

The grade of the Toro is based on the marbling (the fat content and pattern) of the meat. Marbling is more commonly used to grade beef. The part of the Toro closest to the head is the most expensive and valuable and as you move down the belly closer to the tail the grade decreases as does the marbling.

Negi White Toro Maki $4.75
The less expensive, less oily cousin of the Toro, but still very delicious. This Maki is filled with white toro and scallions. I opt for just the fish and no scallions just because I love fish so much, but with scallions is good also. This is a good choice because the fish is very mild, the pieces are small (bad for me, but good for new sushi explorers) and it is not too expensive. You get 6 pieces when you order Maki so everyone can try.

Tekka Maki $4.75
Tekka (red tuna meat, also known as Akami) Maki is also good for the same reasons listed above. I would say that Tekka is a little less firm than the White Toro and has a more oceanic taste. Still refreshing and good for beginners or people like me who like lot and lots of little sushi rolls.

Kampyo Maki $4.25
Kampyo is marinated Calabash (Bottle Gourd) gourd. I will admit that I was a little adverse to this, me and gourds don't usually get along, who knows why. I'll do zucchini and maybe the occasional butternut, but you probably won't see me at a grocery store buying a gourd under my own will. Did I mention I don't like the gourds? But being the wannabe foodie that I am (that and not wanting to be outdone by Mr. B) I decided to try. Great surprise, the gourd was good! It wasn't mushy (which is what I expected...damn you gourds just rename yourself baby food and get on with your day) and the marinate gave it a sweet and salty favor. I'm not sure what they marinate the gourd in, but I assume the base is soy sauce. Also, if you're expecting a yellow and orange gourd colored center's dark brown, almost a deep purple. I tried it, now you have to!

With 4 Sapporro ($8.00 for a 22oz.) that comes to a grand total of...over a hundred something with tax and tip. You could definitely go more thrifty (especially if you catch their happy hour), but considering what we got it was well worth it...and we may have ate enough for 6 people. When it comes to sushi I say go big or go home, eat up or shut up, be aggressive...'B', 'E'...aggressive...

# of People: 3
Reservations: We didn't have any and it was actually too busy for us to get into the bar and make it for HH. This was the only time this has ever happened. Yes you can make reservations, but I believe it's only for the dining and private rooms.
Day/Time of Visit: Thursday, January 15th - 6:15pm
Will I be back: Yeah, it's reasonably priced, close by, pretty good sushi.
YAYs!: HH is great, there is a nice atmosphere, good staff, good variety on the menu.
Nays: Not opened Monday, no waiting area in front. Otherwise its awesome.
Notes: Fuji Ya is not opened on Mondays!
There is also a second location in St. Paul at 465 Wabasha Street. You cannot make reservations at the St. Paul location.

HH is 5-7pm Tuesday-Thursday and 8-10pm Sunday. Sushi ranges from $2.95 to $6.95 on the HH menu, and $3.00 bottles (not the big guy) of Sapporro, yay!


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