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Nov 16, 2006 03:53 AM

Awful sushi experience in Philadelphia...

Let me begin this with an apology and a disclaimer: First off, I'm sorry for the length of this post, but I wanted to share it with my fellow foodies. And now for the disclaimer: I’m an eager foodie, and, as a rule, a forgiving, polite, unfussy restaurant-goer. I’m loathe to even think about sending food back to a kitchen, or anything along those lines, and a restaurant experience really has to be terribly, outstandingly bad, in my book, for me to completely cross them off my list of places I’m willing to try again. However, after my first experience at Fuji Mountain, I was upset enough to actually take the time to write this review in the hopes that other ‘hounds out there don’t endure the same terrible treatment (and if you LOVE Fuji Mountain, please forgive this review and know that it was meant with good intention: I can only hope that my experience there was outside of the norm).

After reading various positive reviews, both here and on other sites, I was really looking forward to eating at Fuji Mountain. Two friends and I drove from Cleveland to meet up with a group of our old college friends in Philadelphia. After deciding that the majority of us wanted to eat sushi for dinner -- two of our party preferred cooked food -- we decided on Fuji Mountain, which three Philadelphians in the group had referred to as their "favorite sushi restaurant in the area." There were seven of us in total, and when we arrived there, we were seated on the very narrow second floor dining area, at a skinny, crowded table for 4-6 -- despite the fact that the wider first floor area had several empty tables. Other than sitting rather uncomfortably, we were looking forward to the food. After perusing the menus, my local friends apologized and mentioned that all the menu prices had increased almost 50% over what they had been only a month or so again -- they were all shocked. Regardless, we were all hungry and willing to overlook the rather high prices, and we ordered two small appetizer plates, 2 large sushi/sashimi plates for five of us to share, and the remaining two people (both, to their eventual chagrin, non-sushi-eaters) each ordered a cooked entrée (one was something like a flash-fried pork, and the other was a noodle dish with chicken). We also ordered three glasses of plum wine. The surly waitress took our order without speaking, and left. She returned a moment later to tell us that they were out of the house plum wine (Huh? At 7 pm on a Friday??) but that the more expensive one was available, which we accepted. She turned on her heel and left again. Forty-five minutes later the two sushi plates were delivered to our table by a busboy (our waitress hadn't returned once, not even to refill the seven water glasses at the table, now long-empty), at which point we nicely mentioned to him that we were still waiting on the hot entrées, the plum wines, appetizers, and small plates for our sushi. He apologized and went to fetch the waitress. She came back and, upon hearing our explanation, simply said, "Well, I put all the orders into the kitchen at the same time. There's nothing I can do!" -- and walked away. (As a cook, this is another thing I don’t understand: by all accounts, making two stir-fried dishes in a commercial kitchen should take less time than preparing roughly 24 sushi pieces). Another forty minutes later (at this point, we were all glancing at our watches, since five of us had sushi sitting in front of us and wanted to eat, but two of us had nothing to eat -- not even appetizers or water -- and we felt terrible eating without them), <i>one</i> of the cooked entrées showed up, cold, along with the long-overdue appetizers, which were also stone cold. Ten minutes after that, the last cooked entrée showed up (at which point most of us had finished our sushi), and we glumly sat there as our friends quickly wolfed down their food so that we could finish the awful experience and just leave.

At this point, though, we were all frustrated and angry enough about the situation to complain to the higher-ups – especially since we’d tried twice to communicate these issues to our waitress – and so two of us went to speak to the manager after the meal. After a long, unapologetic talk (during which he attempted to explain the delays by reasoning, “More people ordered cooked food than usual this evening...” – to which I thought, “Why feature a four-page-long cooked-food menu if you can’t manage to make them?”), he stated that he would take 15% off each cooked entrée ONLY, which he suggested was fair. We felt shocked, cheated and upset. Because there were seven of us, a mandatory 18% tip had already been added to the bill (despite the fact that we’d experienced nothing resembling service), which the manager made no gesture to remove. Despite nearly non-existent and alternately rude service (when the waitress did deign to speak to us) and a total wait of 1 hour and fifty minutes for our food, the total bill ended up at about $330, and there was nothing we could do about it. I can only hope that our experience was an infrequent occurrence, but I'll never go back there.

I should mention that the only bright point of the evening was the sushi itself. When we finally got around to eating it, we found that the Millennium Tuna roll, and the king crab-scallop roll (called the “ACL Roll” or some other acronym) were both delicious. I’m sad to say that they were quite exclusively the only good things about our visit. Honestly, I’m left wondering about the very many positive reviews I’ve read about this place... has anyone else had a similar Jekyll-and-Hyde experience?

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  1. I'm not familiar with Fuji Mountain, freelancer, but I shudder in horror to think you might have been confused by reading raves about "Fuji" in Cinaminnson, N. J. and thought you were eating at the same place.

    Anyway, Fuji, owned and run by Matt Ito, has never been in Philadelphia, so when it re-opens in Haddonfield this January, please have an open mind about the name-similarity

    1. Can you confirm this was at Fuji Mountain in Bryn Mawr? From your description of the place, that seems to be the case. I know there was a Fuji Mountain downtown (20th and Chestnut, I think), but I'm not sure that is there anymore.

      Anyways, I'm sorry to hear your awful experience and if it is the place in Bryn Mawr, I'm a bit surprised. That used to be my place to go for sushi as my favorite sushi chef was there. I got to know the owners pretty well and I still go there once a year or so and always get great service, but then again they know me pretty well. My guess might be a change of ownership has occurred (I'll try to confirm this later today).

      And as the previous poster mentioned, many people are forever confused by "Fuji" in NJ and the handful of "Fuji Mountain"s that have existed in and around Philly (I'm pretty certain the original Fuji Mountain was on Montgomery Avenue in Narberth).

      1. Please specify which Fuji Mountain. I like Sushi Land in Bryn Mawr, and was going to try Fuji Mountain in Bryn Mawr. If that is the one that you are talking about I probably won't go.

        1. I have had my share of arrogant and lousy Japanese restaurant service, and I am sorry you had to go through this. Unfortunately, it seems that some cultural differences do not translate, leaving American diners really bummed out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Suefoo

            Having lived in Japan for many years, I can say quite assuredly that this has nothing to do with cultural differences and everything to do with crappy service.

            sorry to hear your experience was so bad. For $330 you should have had a much better time.

          2. This restaurant was called Fuji Mountain, and was in downtown Philadelphia. It was on Chestnut, if I remember correctly... I hope this clears up any confusion (we definitely weren't in Bryn Mawr, so don't worry...)