The popular trend for Asian-themed restaurants these days is to go Pan Asian—that is, to take a list of greatest hits from multiple and disparate cuisines and offer them alongside one another on a single menu.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, not in the least. The diner is presented with a great number of options—but fusion can obscure the origins of a dish to those unfamiliar with it and serve to dilute the impression that a particular culture’s cuisine leaves on one’s palate.
Not so at Fuji Steak and Sushi. As the name implies, they offer Japanese fare. Upon entering, you are filled with a sense of what you can expect. Traditional Japanese visual elements blend with art-deco and pop-art influences that convey in a very modern sense exactly what Fuji is all about—delivering a truly Japanese experience with accents of American comfort.
Fuji finds different ways to offer its patrons the options so many Americans desire in a dining experience. When pondering Japanese restaurants, many American minds conjure up sushi bars with their cool, sleek counters or teppanyaki cooking, with meticulously trained chefs performing spectacles of culinary dexterity at the table. Fuji offers both of those experiences—and then some.
A full dining area sits between the two, and it’s not a problem to order anything on the menu anywhere you’d like to eat it. You can even enjoy the warming weather on their patio (which occasionally plays host to live, family-friendly acoustic music), or call ahead and bring a crowd of up to 20 for the party room.
Specials offer more incentives to stop in, even if you’re not quite in the mood for a sit-down meal. Half-price sushi is offered on Wednesdays and Sundays, and Fuji also has a full bar, which offers all-day, everyday specials like draft beers for less than $1 and two-for-one wine. Margaritas and martinis are also offered at very reasonable rates. (And of course, there’s sake.)
I visited on a weekday afternoon, and a compartmentalized bento box, divided and filled with all sorts of delicious choices, offered a fresh way to experience several of the tastes on offer. The meal began with a sweetly dressed ginger salad and salty and savory miso soup, which revved up my appetite even more.
Just as I was finishing my first course, out came the box. Even though I was expecting several items, I was genuinely surprised by the size of the box. Its contents were artfully presented, each looking as delicious as the next, and they lived up to their appearances.
First up were fried gyoza, crispy dumplings filled with seasoned pork. (They are also available steamed and/or filled with veggies.) The entree portion of my box contained a perfectly prepared sautéed filet of calamari and a medium-rare steak sat atop a bed of peppers and onions, lightly dressed with teriyaki sauce.
I traded back and forth between bites of these and the fried rice that had clearly been freshly prepared just minutes before in the kitchen. When I felt the need for contrast, I snagged a bite of the simple, refreshing California roll (an iconic example of Japanese cuisine and American comfort meeting in the middle). A sliced orange finished off an excellent light (if large) lunch.
Fuji certainly achieves its goal of bringing the best of Japanese hospitality and cuisine to an American restaurant, all while providing a wonderful comfort level for Chattanooga families. There’s nothing to be intimidated by and no pretense—just loads of options and an accommodating staff.
Just as I was getting up to leave, a young boy and his mother were sitting down to one of the flat-top cooking tables. He rubbed his hands in anticipation of the arrival of the chef, and it became evident that this was his choice of dinner for the evening, perhaps a reward for good behavior. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better choice.
(And I did just finish a story … I think I’ll be paying them another visit tonight to reward my work ethic.)
Fuji Steak and Sushi
5437 Hwy. 153 • (423) 531-3183
11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday to Thursday
11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday