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Fuji makes customers happy

Restaurant review - Fuji

Restaurant review - Fuji

August 29, 2009|By OMNI VORE

The new Asian restaurant and sushi bar in Hagerstown's Rosewood Commons Center is named Fuji. This name called to mind the purity of the cone-shaped volcanic mountain of the same name on the island of Honshu in Japan.

The cuisine of Fuji restaurant in Hagerstown is Chinese and Thai as well as Japanese. The overall quality of elegant simplicity for this restaurant suggested that the name was well chosen.

Three friends, Meg, Amy and Beth, drove from the hot and humid city to find some relief in the Western Maryland mountains. We decided to eat our evening meal at Fuji. Sushi and sashimi were items we could all share.

We began with the chef's special rolls. Meg chose the Dart roll, Amy picked the Rusten roll and Beth selected the Jaguar roll. We were served the Rusten roll first. Our waitress smiled as she set it before us.

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"Good," she said. And it was indeed very good. This roll was composed of shrimp tempura, crab and avocado wrapped first in a sheet of nori (seaweed) and then in long, thin strips of cucumber. The Rusten roll was cold and crisp on the outside, crunchy and hot on the inside. Black and white sesame seeds were sprinkled over the delicate roll and a sweet mirin sauce provided extra flavor.

We all claimed the Rusten roll to be our immediate favorite and reached for seconds. I chose a fork over the chopsticks as a fork is faster. The Rusten roll was a contrast of flavors and textures. Flanking the rolls sat the usual, pink, pickled ginger and a pale-green wasabi. This wasabi was very real and very fresh. And very hot.

We were a little more relaxed over the next plate of sushi. The Jaguar roll was eel and avocado, wrapped in cooked rice and nori, then fried. My friends were more than willing to let me and Beth eat eel alone. But they were enticed by its beauty on the wooden plate and so tasted just a bit. They discovered that this fried sushi was bland and dense, creamy and intense. A sweet bean sauce like a thin hoisin sauce was sprinkled over it. The result was curious and satisfying.

Meg's choice, the Dart roll, was the standard -- nori and rice wrapped around crab, shrimp and cucumber. I used the wasabi again, and it was so intense it seemed to explode inside my head. We became more careful in the amount we used.

I ordered the house soup for two. Our waitress was surprised at the order of our meal but graciously brought the tureen of soup. The glaze of the lid, the bowl and the plate was a muted celadon green, almost like jade. The bowl was generous enough for four of us to enjoy the soup. The broth was clear and light, with florets of broccoli, translucent snow peas, shavings of carrots and traces of onion.

Whole shrimp along with strips of chicken and pork completed the soup. Each item was cooked to perfection. Hot soup on a hot night seemed a good way to fight the weather. The soup was an excellent choice, substantial and filling.

We took a breather then and drank cups of green tea.

We were not rushed to order more food. But we wanted more. Our next choice was sushi and sashimi a la carte. Beth bravely ordered tobiko -- flying fish roe. The flying fish roe were a glorious red color, brilliant scarlet. The small round fish eggs sat inside two pale green cucumber cups. "Too pretty to eat," said Meg, but the rest of us tried it. There was not much flavor, but a lot of crunch of both the cucumber and the roe. It was the most exotic food we tried.

Amy chose her favorite, smoked salmon. This was a familiar fish -- chunks of what we knew as lox, and very good lox. We were served three pieces of this smoked salmon. These were moist and thick, not sliced thin and served, as we were accustomed, with cream cheese and a bagel. This sashimi was served with carrot threads that were the same color as the salmon, but sweet and crunchy.

We decided that when we returned, we would order from the Chef's Special Rolls again as they were more complex than the a la carte sushi/sashimi. Other items to consider for a return visit might include the noodle soups. We could choose Chinese egg noodle soup, Thai rice noodle soup with lemongrass and Japanese udon noodle soup with thick rice noodles. Or, we could order the fried rice in several styles -- straightforward Chinese style, Singapore style with yellow curry, or Thai style with basil and pineapple.

Fuji is a fairly small restaurant, seating about 40 people, four of whom could sit at the sushi bar, served personally by the sushi chef.

The husband-and-wife owners wore black and moved quickly and nimbly through the tables. Service was fast and pleasant. The phone rang frequently with take-out orders. Also available is home delivery with a minimum $15 order. Lunch specials for $6.50 were served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday. There is a sushi lunch special for $7.50 or a bento box special for $7.95.

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