191212FUJI

During a recent visit to Fuji Sushi & Steak House in Janesville, Nikki Bolka, a member of The Gazette’s restaurant review team The Four Dishes, ordered this serving of yaki udon. The stir-fry dish featured noodles tossed with scallops, shrimp, salmon and vegetables.

JANESVILLE

One of the many amazing things about Fuji Sushi & Steak House is all the choices guests are offered—standard tables or communal dining, steak or seafood, raw or cooked. It almost guarantees there is something for everyone.

Fuji’s decor is primarily a red and black color scheme with accents of a rich cherry wood and patterned wall-to-wall carpeting that cozy up the space to make it inviting. Off the lobby there is a huge aquarium and an intimate bar.

When asked if we would like to be seated in the dining area or hibachi area, we discovered it’s important to choose wisely. If you anticipate a conversational dinner, opt for a table in the quieter, more private traditional dining space. If you’re looking for a more engaging, social experience, pick the hibachi.

We opted for the latter. The enormous space has five oversized tables, each seating up to 18, with a grill set in the center. If you come with a small group, it’s likely you’ll be sharing your table with other diners. But don’t worry, the more the merrier.

We decided to start with drinks, and Fuji’s bar offers a variety of martinis. My pomegranate saketina ($4.50) was a subtle blend of fruit and vodka, not like the super-sweet ones I generally avoid. It went well with the shrimp shumai ($6.95) we ordered as an appetizer. The little shrimp-filled dumplings served with a wonderful dipping sauce are a favorite of ours.

The abundance of meat and seafood choices for the hibachi grill made deciding on our meals a bit difficult. I ended up ordering salmon hibachi ($21.95), while Jennifer chose the steak and scallops ($24.50).

Our skilled grill master began cooking both entrees by twirling his utensils, juggling eggs and whipping food around on the grill. It was all quite impressive.

When grilling the vegetables, he asked if we would like to try our hand at catching broccoli in our mouths. We declined but saw airborne broccoli at a neighboring table. With a running commentary on what he was doing, this was dining entertainment at its best. If you have kids who enjoy playing with their food, perhaps there is a career for them in hibachi.

The chef knew what he was doing. Jennifer’s juicy, tender chopped steak was mouthwatering, and it was cooked to perfection with a pink center. The plump, sweet, grilled scallops though were her favorite.

The hibachi meals come with onion soup. I substituted miso soup and was happy with the flavorful broth, bits of tofu and healthy green seaweed. The meal also comes with salad, which despite looking pretty bland is actually packed with flavor thanks to the addictively sweet, tangy dressing.

Even though we were in the grill area, we could still order from the full menu—as long as half our party ordered hibachi. Nikki ordered the seafood yaki udon ($13.95), a stir-fried dish of mild, dense noodles tossed with scallops, shrimp and chunks of salmon. Shredded vegetables gave it a pop of color, and a pot of green tea completed her meal.

Helene, usually one to order sashimi or sushi, decided to order a couple of rolls instead because, while the sashimi and sushi highlight the freshness and beauty of the raw fish, there isn’t a lot of flavor—except what the diner decides to put on it.

Rolls are generally enhanced with sauces, and they make for a more flavorful choice. The rainbow roll ($9.75) and the Janesville roll ($12.95) complemented each other visually and offered two different taste experiences.

The rainbow roll was a little bland, but it only took a little wasabi and soy sauce to remedy that. It was a California roll with tuna, salmon and an avocado slice draped over the top, making it both simple and elegant. On the other hand, the Janesville roll had a lively squiggle of shredded crabmeat and seaweed salad on top with a spicy mango sauce that gave it a colorful tinge. The shrimp tempura added a nice crunch to the bite, while the spiciness of the sauce was tempered by the slight sweetness of the mango. Both were filling and satisfying.

It was a quiet Sunday night when we visited, so we had a hibachi section to ourselves. But larger groups nearby were having a grand old time. Kids were laughing, and the broccoli was flying. I made a mental note this would be the perfect place to bring my family and holiday guests.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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