While slogging through the morass of largely bland, interchangeable restaurants and bland, interchangeable retail shops out at Hamilton Place, you may or may not have noticed that someone has finally taken another chance on the location of the (rightfully) doomed O’Aces. It’s been strange that the property has sat defunct for so long considering its long history and high visibility – it’s like the Kevin Costner of commercial real estate.
Well, the Dungeon Masters of the service industry have rolled a new character. Fuji Steak and Sushi has the typical spread of middling scores – no natural 20s here. Average strength, average intelligence. There are, however, a couple of bumps and modifiers.
The first, as it is most noticeable, is in dexterity. Fuji tries to be several experiences at once. As soon as you walk in you find yourself at a crossroads of three possible evenings: a spatula-flipping steakhouse show, a pan-Asian-themed bar and nightclub, and a more traditional dining experience.
- The hibachi chef circus, located hard left, is as good an example of that sort of thing as you’ll find anywhere. Most of the performers are well-trained and affable, and you can hear the bellowed laughter and “whoa”s from anywhere in the establishment. Of course, the place is still new; they haven’t yet been ground down by years in the service industry of dancing for greasy suburban fatsacks.
- The bar is well-stocked and well-lit. Inexplicably, Top 40 dance music thrums overhead although there is no place to dance. (This can also be heard anywhere in the establishment to the detriment of conversation.) It seems if one wanted to do it up all Fake-Asian, one would want to draw from the very broad and easily accessible oeuvre of Visual Kei (an equivalent Japanese style) instead of the beige pastiche of the Black-Eyed-Ke$ha-Peas. There really aren’t any regular drink specials, unless you count it special to drink a small sampling of Asian beers. You’d think they’d want to beef that up a bit.
- The dining room is small-ish and relatively unappointed. The menu is comprised of a standard array of sushi, teriyaki, tempura, and the like. The presentation is very "Asian wife" - efficient while still being aesthetically pleasing. The portions are fairly sized (though the rice component needs to be reconsidered) and a nice bonus is that some of the entrees come with a serving of Maki sushi. But, considering the price, you may bristle that the portions aren’t fair enough and that you didn’t get much of the atmosphere represented in the other two-thirds of the joint.
The second bump (remember the metaphor) is in charisma. Fuji sports the same conventions that permeate American Asian restaurants; apparently we seem to believe that the Japanese live encased in black Formica. As such there is nothing innovative here…wait. The waterfall in the door as you walk in is pretty snappin’ sweet. Elsewhere, though, are the same clean lines and dark colors you’ll find at Pei Wei, Kampai, and other purveyors of dubiously-derived stereotypes. Remember, Fuji is trying to aspire to standard that has already been set, not forge a new one. They do a passable job. A side note: they seem to make a policy of hiring waitresses that are as stylish and slick as the bar surface. So that’s pretty boss.
Here’s probably the best plan of attack if you want to bother with the place. Monday through Wednesday Fuji offers $1 sushi (three pieces of Maki or one of Nigiri). Go on one of those nights when no other joints are jumpin’ and wash down a facefull of that with some Sapporo. Admire the décor, admire the bartender, and then, if you’re still hungry or sober, move on to more temperate climes.
Fuji Steak and Sushi, 7020 Shallowford Road, (423) 892-2899.