Question(s) about Fuji of Haddonfield
I often dine solo after business, and have thus always felt very comfortable at sushi bars. Morimoto is my go-to in Philadelphia, however, I have heard 'things' about Fuji of Haddonfield. :) I like Fuji's website, and while the son's inventive use of avocado and truffles is outside my more traditional Japanese box, I'm okay with it.
Anyway, is Fuji okay for solo diners? The reason I ask is I wonder if it's more of a neighborhood, family gem or is it also a destination spot?
Finally, is the fish and food as fresh and high quality as Morimoto or other top-flight spots? Do they have fresh (real) wasabi, for instance?
it's both a neighborhood gem and a destination, dniccio. And, it's great for solo diners. They do have a lot of regulars, but almost every time I am there I do see solo diners at the sushi bar.
Yes, fresh wasabi is served with the reconstituted type all the time: your choice. I find the fish, salad, soups to be of the highest quality at fair pricing for the quality. Be family:
go, and mention to Matt or Jesse that CArol, from Carol and Lee
gave you tips.
Best tip is to tell Matt what you don't like/can't eat, and place
yourself in his capable hands. My friend Lee and I never order;
we don't have to. Matt remembers what she is allergic to, and that I can't handle much spicing.
(I far prefer Fuji to Morimoto, even though it is quite a bit further to drive) Enjoy.
Can't wait. I'm going this upcoming weekend.
I was waylaid into Morimoto for another night, since I had a DP that couldn't make it out to Haddonfield. The highlight of my meal was the shredded tuna, for lack of the correct word, as they had a 600-pound tuna and the itamame was scrapping off the meat from the spinal column. This is a real treat if you like the taste/texture of pulled pork but in a tuna version.
I have personally dined solo at the sushi bar and highly recommend it. I would call Chef Matt Ito in advance and tell him you would like to do the Omakase with a few ingredients and he will be happy to oblige.
Last time I was there I had an Omakase for $80 which would have cost me $400 at Morimoto.
We are regulars at Fuji - we get there (from center city) at least twice a month.
If you don't get straight sushi or sashimi, try some of the tuna appetizer specials. The tuna nutae is excellent. Often there are interesting specials.
When we go with friends who don't eat raw fish, they are pleased with the cooked foods. The fresh fish is always delicious.
This is not a fancy place, though we find it serene and lovely.
You would certainly feel comfortable there.
I got back from a great evening at Fuji; thanks so much everyone!
I have to admit, my initial impressions were VERY unfavorable and I was almost looking forward to a scathing review...to be that annoying sushi guy. ;)
Bad early signs:
- MSG laden, pre-packged seaweed salad -- I ordered from Jesse-san, but my server seemed like she wanted me to order something from her so I threw out a seaweed salad as a sop. I didn't even eat it was a so taken aback by the supermarket quality!
- No fresh wasabi -- yes, they have real wasabi (and strangely position it next to fake wasabi in two little bowls, I found out later why), but not freshly grated wasabi root. After becoming friendly with the chef he told me that they have to keep their prices down and basically cater to the crowd
But let's stop complaining, because I told Jesse-san to give me the best of the best, whatever he wanted, and that I like everything except mayo and weird rolls. ;) He obliged splendidly:
1) Live uni -- this is from Santa Barbara. Jesse disappeared in the back to prep this and it was worth it. Nice and sweet and fresh. I thought it'd go better with fresh wasabi, as the other kind can have too much bite for something so silky awesome
2) Hamachi Kama -- As Jesse was plating my sashimi hamachi kama came out (I had asked for a grilled item). The kama was outstanding, good portion, fresh, cooked perfectly with salt, and a meaty, juicy interior. Just how I love it.
I thought the pacing was odd, however, as I've never had the cooked fish before the raw fish. It was a strong dish that overtook some of the later sashimi. It was served with ground radish and ginger. The ginger root with it was all red, which I've never seen before (usually red and white)
3) Sashimi to infinity -- I'm cutting carbs for the summer, so no nigiri for me. I told Jesse to load me up with the best of the best. He's a fatty fish guy, and the O-toro was stellar, the fatty salmon and hamachi very good too. I saw him prep a snapper, too, which was cool. Other things I liked were the live scallop, marinated salmon (never had this before), and engawa. The saba was good, but the only silverfish.
It was a shame he did not have more silverfish, since that's my favorite and usually kohada is used to discern the quality of a sushi establishment. Jesse-san mentioned that August is a slow month, so they do not pack the same variety. He was lamenting not having more crustaceans such as geoduck for me. He also told me that most customers do not like things like Hokkaido uni or kohada, so they stopped ordered it. Besides it was expensive for them.
So, I got the impression they're very price conscious. We chowhounders should help them out, since they're so serious about their craft. I loved the plates and pottery. I loved Jesse-san's knife skills. I was just dining at Atlanta's supposed #1 restaurant right now, Umi, and Jesse-san's knife skills were on par if not better than Ito-san at the much ballyhooed Umi.
What a digression!
4) Ankimo -- Jesse-san said he loves chicken liver, and their ankimo was super smooth and perfectly served with ponzu sauce and cucumbers
5) Tamago -- very sweet, eggy. I really liked this, as I don't like the cake/flan type of tamago that is hipper at the "new" sushi restaurants. Perfect way to end the meal
Things that hold Fuji back is their need to cater to the masses in NJ/Philadelphia, and since the price point is lower they're not going to splurge a la Morimoto, finally, the space is like a Chinese restaurant. They need to spruce that baby up!
On a very positive note, the knife skills were excellent, fish supremely fresh, aesthetics in plating/portions maintained, and Jesse-san is a gregarious guy. We talked about Yasuda in NYC, and Jesse's kind enough to be ordering some special items (live lobster!) for my next visit. I can tell that's what builds loyalty, and I will certainly spread the word.