Monday, January 28, 2013

Fukuda YES!

We've been hearing quite a bit of buzz lately about the culinary innovations going on at Fukuda, so when we heard that it was participating in Pittsburgh Restaurant Week, we knew we had to check things out for ourselves.

I'll cut right to the chase (which, if you know me at all, is something of an exception to the norm). This place had its interesting share of ups and downs, but the food was - without a shred of a doubt - the up to rule all ups. 

Initially, I'd tried to make reservations (well beyond a week in advance) for a group of six girls on a Friday.  The girl I spoke with was very sweet when she told me they just didn't have room for us unless we wanted to eat at 9:45... which we did not. So I took PID on a Wednesday instead! As soon as we walked in, we immediately realized why six girls on a Friday was an impossibility. The restaurant is the very definition of quaint. A small front room scattered with no more than seven tables and a sushi bar is the extent of it. While there is room for a table of six, I suggest calling upwards of two weeks ahead to snag it on a weekend.

The decor was shabby chic, extremely interesting and inviting. I felt like I was at a friends' house and the hostess made us feel the same. 

I'll quickly skim over a few of the "downs" I mentioned earlier, but PLEASE bare with me because - I swear to you - it gets much, MUCH better. I'm just doing my due diligence by sharing them with you. Necessary non sequiturs, if you will.

1) We had made the mistake of viewing an older menu on their website and checking out the photos of the menu we found on UrbanSpoon. While the choices were fairly similar, the prices have shot up exponentially since what I can only assume was October.  I personally am not bothered by this. I understand inflation and supply and demand. They have been receiving a lot of good press and, if the demand for product is higher, so too shall be the prices. That said, I DO think that for the size, simplicity and young age of the restaurant, they are slightly overpriced. That said again... and you'll see this... the food is friggin' worth it.

2) We were seated for a good 12-15 minutes before anyone came to our table to take our drink order. Again, this is a seven table establishment. It shouldn't have been the case.

3) We made reservations and specifically went there to participate in Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. But when it came time to order, our server informed us that they were no longer offering the Restaurant Week Menu, because the chef wanted to change it. That was pretty disappointing. During Restaurant Week we wanted to...well...partake in Restaurant Week.  Nonetheless, many of the items on that menu were still available individually, so we got to ordering. 

We started with the Kusshi Oysters with Juniper shisho granita (shisho leaves have a slight cinnamon flavor to them and the Juniper gave it a nice floral twist!), thai chili, and fresh lemon.  The granita and thai chili were completely perfect on the slippery oysters, but they were so small that I couldn't truly appreciate it like I would have loved to. Again, these flavors were SPOT. ON. But at $5 an oyster, I wasn't sure the price was.

Kusshi Oysters - $10
We also ordered a bowl of grilled edamame for the two of us. Here? I have negative zero complaints. I went into it thinking edamame was edamame. Boy was I wrong. Grill it with some sea salt and a touch of lemon? And you've got yourself one heck of a delicious (and healthy!) snack. PID had to smack my hand away a few times. 

Grilled Edamame - $5.50

For our entrees we ordered a collection of two spicy tuna maki rolls, a tuna avocado maki roll, the Ramen we'd seen on the PRW menu, and the simmered pork belly.  (And here is my very last "down," I promise) Though our servers were incredibly friendly, personable and available, the expediting in this place can use some work. PID became extremely frustrated with the great length of time that lapsed between each item that we ordered. I excused it, because the place is new and they were probably slightly overwhelmed with PRW, but I will say that two of us took 2.5 hours to eat a relatively small meal - and not by choice. Once they fall into step with their delivery, this place will be unstoppable. 

The spicy tuna roll wins my TOP award for the best of the 'burgh. And believe me, I've had my fair share of spicy tuna in Pittsburgh. Hands down, the light yet perfectly spicy tuna beats every other I've tried in our fare city. The tuna and avocado roll was delicious as well. 

Left to Right: Spicy Tuna Maki - $7.5, Avocado Tuna Maki - $9.5
PID really loved his Ramen. He was thrilled that he could get something so unique (and so HIM) in this area. The noodles were fresh and delicious, the broth was just fishy enough to taste incredibly authentic and earthy, and the scallions added a welcome kick and crunch. The pork belly melted in your mouth and the broken egg added that needed body that gave the dish an exciting boost.

Ramen - $10.50
My pork belly came last. WAY last. So last that we wound up not being charged for it. Honestly, I have to thank the Fukuda staff. Yes, we waited far longer than we should have. But I've worked in the restaurant biz and I truly, truly appreciate that it gets tough sometimes. You really didn't have to do that, but we do thank you for noticing the wait.  Which - by the way - was totally worth it.

Simmered Pork Belly - $10.5

That rich, fatty flavor that I crave and drool over every time I see the words "pork belly" on a menu - it was there. It was ALL there. It was simmered to sheer and utter perfection. And the spice mixture that they sprinkled on top? It could have been seasoned salt for all I know, but it added a brilliant zing to the soft belly. And that Japanese mustard sauce.... heaven. Pure heaven.

Restaurant Information:
Address: 4770 Liberty Ave in Bloomfield
Phone: 412.377.0916
Reservations: Taken

Wednesday – Sunday LUNCH 11am-2pm
Wednesday – Saturday DINNER 6pm-11pm
Sunday DINNER 5pm-10pm
Friday + Saturday LATE NIGHT 11pm-2am

Overall Opinion:
So I know I walked you through a roller coaster of an experience but here it is, my overall opinion. Sure it's a bit pricey for the portion size. Sure they had a few issues with their expediting. And sure we couldn't get the PRW menu we were promised. But when I left there I didn't care a lick. All I could think about, all I could DREAM about, was the sushi. And the pork belly. And the grilled edamame, and yes - even those $5 oysters.

Take a date here. Take your mom here. Take your next door neighbor here (make reservations EARLY) and splurge, for pete's sake. If you like modern, inventive, Asian-inspired cuisine, you'll be damn glad you did. If you don't like sushi, or ramen, or paying a lot for a small but ridiculously delicious portion, then - plain and simple - just steer clear.

Fukuda on Urbanspoon

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