There are certain things that you love as a kid that you look back on with bewilderment, “what was I thinking?” The Teppanyaki steakhouse is one of those for me. Growing up in the South meant, until recently, that Asian food meant heavily battered General Tso’s and sushi was scoffed at as something you would rather find in a tackle box than a plate. Even now, my friends gape when I tell them how good a slab of fatty raw tuna can be. That was what I loved about Hibachi food growing up. It seemed exotic, maybe a little dangerous with the knives, yet still safe enough to enjoy. Imagine being a suburban kid and entering a place where they cook, in front of you! Onion volcanoes! Knives flying about! It introduced me to Asian Food outside of a La Choy Chow Mein can.
But when I treated myself to lunch at Fujisan recently(8411 Brier Creek Pkwy # 105, Raleigh, NC 27617-2008), well… Don’t get me wrong, there are redeeming qualities about Fujisan; the atmosphere is warm, the chefs performing are skilled, the waitstaff is attentive. But when it comes to the food, the thrill is gone. Granted, Teppanyaki in American is pretty westernized, just like we’ve taken seemlingly scary, pungent, or previously unappetizing foods and “Americanized” them, we’ve taken the clean flavors of Japanese food and poured gloppy shrimp sauce all over it. I’m sure there are food snobs out there who would decry this review when there are tons of good Japanese restaurants and Sushi out there. But sometimes you have to say screw authenticity and give in a little to pandering. It’s ok once in a while, but it’s better if you have at least tasty food to justify it.
Which brings us to Fujisan. I’ve only eaten lunch there, so perhaps the dinner meal holds a bit more pizazz, but lunch is an under seasoned and underwhelming mess. An offering of iceberg lettuce with a carrot shaving or two with heavy, marmalade-like dressing was the first course. The fried rice was brought to the table in a bowl rather than prepared fresh, so the resulting dish was a clumpy, dry mush. The main course of steak and shrimp lacked the salt and citrus respectively needed to bring it alive. The worst part was that while the chef performed admirably in front of us, twirling his knives and focusing on entertaining us, the combination of oblivious diners and mediocre food made it hard to appreciate his show.
Maybe I expect too much, you can’t go home again and all that. But maybe I just expect a little more, shouldn’t we all? Shouldn’t a good meal mean more than a flaming onion? I think the problem is that Fujisan hides behind the theatrics. If they focused on the food, maybe this could be a place to bring future foodies in to introduce them to something beyond chicken nuggets. Until then, I’ll take my dinner and a show separately.