You know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that? --Ratatouille (Pixar, 2007)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fuji Mountain or Mt. Fuji? Try BOTH!

Let it be clear upon reading these two reviews that sushi is not my thing. If you've read my blog before, you'll know I'm no sushi aficionado: I can't tell you half of what you'd need to know about it to be an expert and I really only eat it a few times a month. That being said, I know the difference between a good piece of fish and a bad one, and a great piece of unagi (eel) really warms my heart. After eating more sushi lately than I usually do, I've found that Philadelphia and Ardmore present two winning restaurants that sound and serve alike!

Fuji Mountain (Website, 2030 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA) is a hidden gem amongst the high end restaurants scattered throughout nearby streets. Though it doesn't look similar to others of fame from the outside, the food inside is just as high quality. The menu is extensive, with an insane amount of appetizers to start. From classics like agedashi tofu (gently fried tofu found in nearly every Japanese restaurant) and edamame, to innovative dishes and entre├ęs like onzukuri, a torch seared fish plate, and even a Japanese version of Mexican ceviche, Fuji Mountain knows how to begin a meal.

From there, the fun escalates. Fuji Mountain has over a full page of what you really crave: Maki (the traditional white girl "sushi roll") and duos of sushi (single pieces of rice with fish sliced atop). Everything you could ask for, Fuji Mountain delivers. From more than a few kinds of everyone's favorite tuna to crab thrown at you 3 ways--only two of which are actual crab (one is just for the vegetarians to feel like they're eating crab without the misguided guilt)! Two pieces of hamachi sushi are shown in front of my father's specialty "pumpkin" maki roll below. How delicate, beautiful, and elegant do they look?

In addition to the specials, like the pumpkin roll (check out that classy orange tint) above, the maki list is endless. In front of another special (the Inferno roll) seen below is one of their general maki selections, the crazy roll. While the crazy roll was delicious, the Inferno roll really crushed it. As you can see in the picture, the Inferno roll had a scrumptious spicy sauce coating it which added a completely different element to roll that the crazy roll really could have used too. So, sadly, I suppose you could say that, while all the rolls at Fuji Mountain are delicious, the specials are those worth devoting most of your stomach space to.

But let's say you want this same quality of sushi at home in the 610...where do you go? I was told by a good friend a while back that there was a new restaurant in Ardmore called Mt. Fuji (36 Greenfield Ave, Ardmore PA, no website for the ardmore location yet, visit their Facebook page)...and I just laughed. Is there a hat that gets picked out of when restauranteurs are deciding on names for Japanese restaurants? Wondering if it could possibly top my enjoyable meal at its palindromic (sort of :/) cousin, I visited Mt. Fuji recently with my family.

For Ardmore, Mt. Fuji is pretty darn classy. A BYOB nestled in next to a cut-rate modeling salon and a state liquor store, beyond the walls, the ownership has created quite an enticing ambiance...and the food matches the atmosphere. Food at Mt. Fuji is even more luxuriously presented than at Fuji Mountain. As you can see below, seemingly average foods (like grilled asparagus) are presented as if they're worth millions of dollars. This sort of precision and care not only makes the customer feel as though they're worth those millions too, but I truly believe it makes the food taste better. The asparagus below tasted like gold...it was soft yet crunch, sweet yet natural. It glowed on the plate.

But once again, nothing could distract me from the true purpose of my visit: the fish. Another appetizer, the tuna salmon tower, was tasty but didn't wow me. The rice seemed a little too dry, and the fish stuck together in a rather awkward way. Nevertheless, it was seasoned well, tasted fair, and looked great--check it out below.

The meal shot up from there. We ordered a few rolls, but the two winners, the "Three Musketeers" (Tuna, salmon, yellowtail, avocado, and tobiko) and the "Out of Control" (tuna, salmon, yellowtail, asparagus sprouts, and mayo miso eel sauce) are pictured below. Though the presentation of the Three Musketeers is obviously more delicate looking and more beautiful, both rolls were absolutely delightful. What the Out of Control lacked in presentation it won back in taste--it was soft yet its crunchy sprouts were pronounced and textured in a very different way.

Overall, my dinners at both Fuji Mountain and Mt. Fuji were spectacular. Both restaurants served food with passion and grace, and are definitely deserving of a visit from any sushi lover. Hope you can all visit soon!