Not long ago, Japanese hibachi and sushi restaurants were an exotic treat.
Today there is one for nearly every neighborhood in the Baton Rouge area — two dozen by my count.
Fuji Sushi and Hibachi, the newest entry in the field, is located in a strip center and is decorated in the common style of American Japanese restaurants, with dark wood floors and furniture and intricate upholstery.
The food doesn’t stray far from what’s expected. The menu offers a standard variety of sushi rolls and hibachi-grilled steak, chicken and seafood, with an interesting selection of appetizers. When we visited Fuji early in the evening on a weekend, we chose a booth rather than a hibachi table.
For an appetizer, we picked from an appealing list that included baked mussels and sizzling squid. We decided on the golden spider ($8.95), described on the menu as a fried soft shell crab. Fried in the light, crispy tempura style, the breading only complemented the crab taste. It was served with a slightly sweet and salty special sauce. While the crab was the highlight of our visit, it was small considering the price. The golden spider only serves one to two diners.
My dining companion’s small seaweed salad ($4.95) was fresh and tasty, but her hot tea arrived lukewarm.
Our main entrees, two sushi rolls and hibachi shrimp, arrived at the table in trickles. I never received the miso soup meant to precede the hibachi shrimp, but I never missed it.
The hibachi shrimp ($18.95) were excellent. Lightly grilled with onions, zucchini, carrots and broccoli, and served with fried rice, the dish was exactly what I expected.
A few minutes after receiving the shrimp, the two sushi rolls arrived. Presented beautifully, they took up nearly half the table top.
The star of the two rolls was the dancing eel ($11.95), a roll of cucumber, crabmeat and shrimp topped with barbecued eel. The flavors mingled well, and the fish tasted fresh.
Our other sushi roll, the Monroe roll ($11.95), was an unwise choice. Mention of the north Louisiana city doesn’t bring to mind flavorful tuna rolls, but the menu’s description — crabmeat and avocado wrapped inside chopped tuna — was appetizing.
However, the chopped tuna was mealy and runny with absolutely no flavor. One of the most popular sushi and sashimi cuts, tuna should have a simple, strong flavor and a firm but delicate texture.
On the night we visited, Fuji was uneven, with some dishes rising above expectations while others disappointed. For the most part, Fuji does not distinguish itself from other similar restaurants.