Friday, February 10, 2017

Quincy: The Impressive Fuji At West (Part 2)

Japanese cuisine can be delicious and beautiful, a sublime melange of fresh ingredients and savory umami. On my recent culinary trek to Quincy, Kerry Byrne (a Quincy native, food writer for the Boston Herald, and the owner of KJB Trending Hospitality), aware of my passion for Japanese cuisine, took me to Fuji at West of Chestnut. We experienced a seven-course sampling of the menu, a thoroughly impressive and delicious dinner that made me eager to return to taste more of their various dishes.

West of Chestnut is a new multi-level residential and commercial complex on Hancock Street in Quincy, with a few dozen apartment buildings and several restaurants, including Fuji. Fuji at West of Chestnut, which only opened about three weeks before my visit, is the tenth restaurant owned by the Quincy-based JP Fuji Group. Five of their other restaurants, which range from Japanese hot pot to frozen yogurt, are also located in Quincy, with others in places including Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.

The first Fuji restaurant was opened in Wollaston in October of 1998, and this latest Fuji restaurant is intended to be one of the highlights of their culinary empire. The JP Fuji Group was founded by President, CEO and Chef Jimmy Liang & VP, CFO, and Chef Peter Tse. Chef Jiang is a native of Quincy and he was our welcoming host when we dined there recently.

The restaurant itself is elegant and spacious, with a cocktail bar and sushi bar, and seats approximately 150 people, the largest restaurant currently within their group. During the summer, it will have an outside patio too. I was fascinated by their private dining room, which seats about 12 people, and has its own tasting kitchen. You can reserve this room for an Omakase dining experience, which includes food and alcohol, for roughly $200-$400 per person. The term Omakase basically means "I'll leave it up to you," meaning that the chef will prepare whatever dishes he wants for your dinner. The selections for this Omakase will all be "off the menu" and often include high-end ingredients. It sounds like this could be a unique and exquisite culinary experience for the adventurous diner.

There is a full drinks program at Fuji, from craft cocktails to Japanese Sake. The wine list carries lots of familiar names, the beer list has a few Japanese brews as well as some local beers, and they also carried several Japanese whiskies. Fuji stocks about 11 Sakes (though of course I wish they carried more selections), from Gekkeikan Hot Sake to the sublime Dassai 23 Junmai Ginjo (though please note there is a typo on their Sake menu as the Dassai is a 300ml not 720ml bottle). We opted to drink the Ginga Shizuku Junmai Daiginjo (300ml/$50), which is light, clean and crisp, just an elegant and compelling Sake.

The food menu is expansive, from sushi to noodles, gyoza to wok-tossed dishes. Most Appetizers, from Pork Belly Buns to Salt & Pepper Calamari, cost $10 or less. Check out their Soups, from iconic Miso Soup to the more unusual Oxtail Soup, or their Salads, from Fuji Seaweed Salad to Katsu Salmon Salad. There is a full and extensive range of Sushi, from Nigiri to inventive Maki rolls,  and the Nigiri is reasonably priced. Try an Entree, like the Chicken Kastu or Sake Teriyaki, or opt for a Wok Tossed dish like X.O. Sauce Scallops With Poached Egg or Pineapple Chicken Leg Deconstructed with Cashews. Or you could also go for a Noodle dish like Pad Thai, a Rice dish such as Lobster (Fujian style) Rice, or even Clay Pot, maybe the Crispy Duck version. Lots of appealing choices.

Rather than order off the menu, we placed ourselves in the hands of Chef Liang, to serve us whatever he wanted to present to us, basically our own Omakase. That was a great decision as the Chef served us plenty of tasty and impressive dishes. If you're adventurous, I'd recommend you do the same.

We began with a couple pieces of Nigiri, a piece of Seared Tuna and one of Blue Fin Toro, beautifully presented and absolutely delicious. Silky, fresh fish, with subtle toppings, making me crave even more sushi.

We then moved onto a tasty Spicy Tuna Lettuce Wrap, with a house sweet pepper sauce and fresh pineapple. The crunchy lettuce leaf housed an almost ceviche-like mix of tuna, mildly spicy sauce, and fruit. Again, the freshness of the dish stood out.

The next dish, the Fried Whole Fish with Black Bean Sauce, was incredible! The fish was a California Striped Bass and its flesh was moist, flaky and sweet while the crispy skin was nearly addictive. The black bean sauce added a mild earthiness to the dish, with plenty of umami, complementing the sweetness of the fish. Don't worry about seeing the entire fish at your table as this dish is too delicious to miss. Highly recommended!

This cool dish presented Yellow Tail Sashimi, with yuzu, tobiko, and homemade lemon mustard. Again, the silky seafood seemed very fresh, and was enhanced by the subtle flavors added atop it. The citrusy yuzu was a nice addition.


Then, this intriguing glass dome arrived at our table, filled with smoke. What did it contain?
You can watch the video of the unveiling of this dish.

And the reveal! What a beautiful dish, with bright colors and different shapes, a feast for the eyes. The dish consisted of local Striped Bass, with a wasabi puree on bottom, edible pansies, pomegranate, basil/jalapeno oil, and it had been lightly smoked with hickory. Creamy and silky, with the added texture of the greens and pansies, this was another excellent dish.


Next up was the Waygu Ishiyaki, a disassembled Japanese hot stone cooking with premium grade Wagyu beef (from California) that was sliced and served with ginger, scallion, and ponzu sauce & teriyaki sauce. The hot stone is from the famed Mount Fuji in Japan. The fatty beef melted in your mouth, and it was easy to toss a slice on the hot stone for a short time to sear it. I liked both the ponzu and teriyaki sauces, though give a slight personal preference to the teriyaki.

Our last course, hidden beneath cranberry foam, was a blend of Salmon and Spicy Tuna, which was another delightful dish of silky seafood with the added flavors from the foam and other subtle toppings.

Overall, Fuji At West impressed me on several levels, from the aesthetic appeal of their dishes to the scrumptious flavors found within each dish. If you are seeking a new Japanese restaurant to try, I highly recommend you make the short trek to Quincy to check it out. Despite only being open less than a month, the kitchen is doing an great job. I will certainly return soon to check out more of their menu, and maybe to rent their private dining room. Kudos and good luck to Chef Liang and the rest of the Fuji crew.