An Opinionated Critique: Fujiyama

An Opinionated Critique: Fujiyama

I always thought I was the biggest fan of Sushi until I met my wife. I dare say that whenever I happen to upset her, I could turn it around by taking her to a sushi dinner, or even make it at home following a run to H-Mart for their sushi-grade fish filet. She loves it so much that the first thing I did after our son was born, was to order her a big sushi meal! Naturally, for this year’s Mother’s Day, I took her and our two munchkins to eat sushi.

After trying most of the reputable sushi restaurants near us, we decided to go out of our way and see what Far North Dallas has for us. Based on the beautiful presentations and overwhelmingly positive reviews, we chose Fujiyama.

To this day I still remember when I had my first taste of sushi. I was still in college, doing a work-study job for the IT department. My boss would treat all of her students to a dinner at the end of each semester. Once I told her that I wished to try sushi, and to my surprise she agreed to it, and even gave us a quick lesson about it. She told us not to mix wasabi into the soy sauce, but instead just let it slowly dissolve; also that it was considered manly in Japan to eat sushi by hand rather than with chopsticks. I went all out and ordered all sorts of raw seafood sushi, and was completely in love with the idea of eating raw flesh – it just made me feel like a bad ass.

Luckily there was a Whole Foods next to campus which sometimes carried sushi-grade tuna (no salmon though). So I taught myself how to make sushi, in various forms, but only with tuna. This way, whenever I felt like being a bad ass, my sushi-making skills would come in handy.

My Attempt at Spicy Salmon Roll

Anyways, fast-forward ten years, now my taste for sushi has become quite picky. I care a lot about the quality of rice, the flavor and texture of fish, and how they both work together to form that perfect one-bite experience. I like to order the simplest items on the menu to avoid distractions from the main ingredients. My wife on the other hand loves creativity so she usually orders specialty rolls. So putting the two of us together, we can make sure to get the full experience.

  • Price Range: $25 – $35 per person
  • Parking: On-premises, Free
  • Official Website (Online menu is disabled)

The side salad and miso soup arrived very quickly. The soup was heavy on the red miso, which gave the soup a stronger soy taste than white miso, and stands out quite a bit from many other sushi restaurants I’ve been to.

Simple salad with lettuce, spinach, cherry tomatoes and shaved beets

I ordered fried squid tentacles for appetizer. They were skewered nicely on a stick, battered and fried. Thought the texture was crispy and the meat wasn’t overcooked, I couldn’t help but notice a strong fishiness. Assuming that the squid was fresh, I believed some liberal seasoning or marinade would have helped with the fishiness, or they could at least serve it with a dipping sauce.

While ordering the sushi, I first ordered the Spanish mackerel Nigiri. The server later notified me that the chef had recommended Japanese mackerel instead, which tasted better. I gladly took the advice, which later proved to be a great idea. The Japanese mackerel was mild and only had a hint of the mackerel fishiness, and more surprisingly it tasted very smooth, rich and fatty, almost like the toro. I would highly recommend everyone to try it if available. I didn’t check if there was a difference in price between the Spanish and Japanese mackerel Nigiri, but I would still appreciate the chef being considerate even if Japanese mackerel was more expensive.

Four Nigiri Orders: Fresh Water Eel, Japanese Mackerel, Uni (Sea Urchin) and Salmon

The sea urchin was really disappointing, however. First of all, the top of the sea urchin was covered with some gooey liquid substance, which didn’t feel like those I had in the past from other restaurants. The surface of the Uni should exhibit clear textures. I found some old pictures of Uni I had before and you can clearly tell the difference:

Then, the taste was also way off. First it had a strange gaminess which was described by my wife as “like dried bamboo shoot.” Then a unbearable bitterness kicked in. I suspect that the Uni wasn’t fresh. Later I browsed the Yelp pictures of Fujiyama, and they all seemed very clean and “safe” – none of that gooey business. Therefore, if you decide to order Uni from Fujiyama, I would suggest to inspect carefully when it arrives and see if it looks like what I got. If so, don’t eat it and complain immediately.

Aside from the sea urchin, the salmon and fresh water eel both tasted rich, tender and fresh. The chef drizzled some Ponzu (a citrusy soy sauce) with a little bit of scallion on one of the salmon Nigiri, but I didn’t quite notice much difference. I’m highly against adding liquid seasoning to sushi except dabbing slightly in soy sauce right before eating, because the liquid will cause rice grains to fall apart from each other, compromising the texture. The しゃり (“Sari”, the rice ball in a Nigiri) was a bit on the loose side, it did fall apart easily in my mouth but lacked some structure. Overall though, if it wasn’t for the spoiled sea urchin, I felt it was pretty solid set of Nigiri.

The Entire Order

For the rolls, we ordered two basic rolls for our daughter. She said the spicy salmon roll was more spicy than those she had before, but she still managed to finish them all. Not a bad thing, though. The specialty rolls were a bit hit-and-miss. The Alaska roll (crab meat, salmon and avocado), the colorful ones at the bottom of this picture along with the basic rolls, tasted great. The size was too big for my wife though, so at the end she had to break it apart to eat comfortably. Even with my lion-sized mouth, I also agreed that it was too big. When a bite of food fills up the entire mouth, it’s hard to detect the nuance of each ingredient and layers of flavor.

From top to bottom: spicy salmon, Philadelphia, and Alaska rolls

The Super Toro roll boasted truffle oil and fatty belly meat of tuna. The roll size was OK, but seriously – how can they drench the rice in liquid like that! Soaking the sushi in soy sauce is already a taboo at the dinner table, and I would expect the chef to know better than that to serve this way. Also, the truffle oil completely masked the taste of tuna – what a waste of good toro.

Super Toro Roll. At least it came with a lot of Toro

For the spicy scallops roll, again it was a bit over-sized. I thought the use of tofu skin to wrap the sushi was innovative and gave it an interesting texture, a good change-of-pace in my opinion, but my wife didn’t like it. The cooked scallops were a bit fishy too, but it didn’t really bother me. I think I enjoyed the scallops roll more than the other specialty rolls.

I also ordered an Oyakodon as the main entree. It was basically a bowl of rice topped with chicken, egg, onion, and a thin, savory sauce. Very simple dish. The idea behind the name “Oyako” was a play on the combination chicken and egg, hence “parent and child”. It just happened that two days ago I made some seriously delicious Gyudon, so I wanted to see how the professionals execute other famous “don” dishes. Fujiyama’s Oyakodon incorporated boneless thigh meat which turned out juice and tender. The egg was cooked to just the right done-ness. Solid execution, I’d say. I only wished that the sauce popped out more. I didn’t really taste the Mirin and Dashi that were supposed to be the main body of the sauce.

I know… It looks like a bowl of onions

The dinner cost us $118 including the Kid’s Bento (for our 1yo son who eats a ton), and overall we didn’t feel it was good enough for us to come back. I think the specialty rolls were a bit of a sell-out, completely ignoring the art of sushi in exchange for visual appeals and the opportunity to charge premium by piling lots of ingredients onto each piece. I’m sure the spoiled Uni was an accident since pictures from other reviews of Fujiyama didn’t have this problem, but it was an indication that it wasn’t a popular item here, so there’s a greater chance of someone getting it at a bad time. For folks who plan to visit this restaurant, my personal, opinionated suggestion is to stick with the Nigiri and basic rolls.

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