Mr. Fuji earns loyalty with good flavors, gracious service

The Mr. Fuji restaurant in the Village Plaza strip mall in Clifton Park has a lot of repeat business
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The Mr. Fuji restaurant in the Village Plaza strip mall in Clifton Park has a lot of repeat business. It’s no secret why — it serves tasty Tokyo-style Japanese food in a warm and welcoming setting.

Mr. Fuji Tokyo Cuisine

WHERE: Village Plaza, 19 Clifton Country Road, Clifton Park. Phone 383-5538.

WHEN: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday to Friday; dinner, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 4:30 p. m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday; also open 11:30 a. m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday

HOW MUCH: $47.73

MORE INFO: MasterCard, Visa, American Express. Reservations accepted. Children’s menu available. Wheelchair accessible.

The restaurant is small but comfortable, with a row of booths along one wall, separate light-wood tables and chairs in the front, and a sushi bar near the back made from the same attractive light wood. There is a large flat-screen television in the dining room, which was showing the day’s news. The walls are painted a cheery tangerine, a color that caught my attention and, curiously, made me hungry.

Happy to serve you

The staff is cheerful, too. Several women waited on us during the course of the meal, and all were friendly, helpful and courteous.

Menus at Asian restaurants are often comprehensive, as they include cuisines from many regions, and the one at Mr. Fuji is no exception. We flipped back and forth through the many pages, deciding among hibachi, sushi, sashimi, tempura, noodles and teriyaki. To make it even harder to choose, there also was a specials menu that night.

Though we ordered very different things, both meals started with the predictable iceberg salad and miso soup course. The iceberg salad was fresh, with a slice of tomato and cucumber, topped with a generous serving of thick dressing. “It tastes like Thousand Islands dressing with horseradish,” said dining companion Mom, which was an endorsement of it. It was way too much dressing for me, and I picked around it, then tilted the bowl to find a small puddle of water at the bottom.

The miso soup was lukewarm, no better or worse than any I’ve been served. Mom and I left much of this first course uneaten.

Things improved tremendously when Mom’s appetizer arrived. It was the mango spider ($9), a soft-shelled crab deep fried and served with a sweet-and-sour mango sauce. It looks disconcertingly like an oversized spider, but the heavenly fragrance dispelled any similarity to the real thing.

The meat was full-flavored and slightly sweet, and so good. The frying was impeccably done, the crab perfectly browned. I thought the flavor of the sauce was more sweet-and-sour flavor than fruit, but Mom thought it was just fine, and it was her dish, not mine. We agreed that it was beautifully presented on a pale blue plate with a colorful vegetable and fruit garnish.

Mom ordered katsu don ($11), a fried pork cutlet served over a big bowl of rice. It looked like the pork had been dipped in egg, then pan-fried and flipped out over the rice. There were slices of pickle, which she didn’t care for, and daikon, pickled radish root, which she liked very much. The whole presentation was beautiful, with the bright green pickle, golden egg, and sliced sautéed onions over the rice. She said it was wonderful and commented on the generous portion. We both liked the short-grained, plump rice, which didn’t dry out during the meal. The dish was simple and uncomplicated, but very well done.

In the box

The server did me a kindness when steering my order away from full-sized plates to a bento box, a combination of the very things I wanted to order à la carte. The steak teriyaki entree was $17 and the gyoza dumplings appetizer was $5, but she pointed out that it would be too much food. “There are six dumplings in an order. The bento box has two,” she said. I got what I wanted and then some for $16.

The bento box also included tempura, something I like very much, and a whole California roll. So I got to try several of my favorite things and even had some to bring home to husband Eric. The only drawback was that it all comes together. So you can’t eat everything while it’s hot, a problem with the fried stuff and the steak but not the California roll.

I started in the upper-right hand corner of the box with the fried pork dumplings, which were hot and delicious, and even better when dipped in the sweetly seasoned soy sauce. The server was right: two were just enough. Then I went on to the panko-battered tempura, which consisted of assorted vegetables and two large shrimp. The shrimp were delicious and the coating was thick and crispy. I savored them, eating small bites, then moved on to the vegetables: green squash, pepper and broccoli. All were wonderful, and much improved by the salty-sweet sauce.

On to the steak

By the time I got to the steak, I was getting pretty full, but the attractive grill marks, bright red color, and accompanying caramelized onions kept me going. This section of the box was garnished with brightly colored broccoli and carrot, which made the steak and browned onions look even more appealing. The meat was very good, only very slightly chewy in places, enhanced by the delicious teriyaki sauce and it was even better when taken in the same bite as some slices of caramelized onion. A full plate of it would be quite a satisfying meal.

I brought husband Eric the California roll, which he enjoyed later that evening.

Several folks came in to pick up take-out food, and Mom and I were both impressed with how warmly they were greeted. Some were regulars who chatted with the staff for a bit even after their food was ready. It seems that Mr. Fuji has a lot of happy customers.

The check arrived when we finished our entrees. I might have had the tempura cheesecake ($4.50) or the banana tempura ($3.50), but I was full and there wasn’t anything on the menu that I hadn’t seen before. The bill for dinner with two sodas came to $47.73, including tip.

We enjoyed our dinner, the pleasant atmosphere and the courteous, attentive service. Those are the things that keep their customers coming back.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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