Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bowling For Sushi

My daughter, Alexis, recently turned five, and now, like her P. Daddy, she thinks she knows everything. She knows, for example, that Santa couldn’t have possibly made all of her presents because he was busy telling the elves what to make and how to make it. Apparently, Santa is quite the Bossy Bosserton. And if she doesn’t know something, she asks questions that are so hard, it still makes her look smarter than me. How am I supposed to know what the tooth fairy does with the teeth after leaving money and taking them away? Oh honey, that’s easy. He resells them to professional hockey players for a hefty profit. Now go to sleep.

Alexis is learning synonyms from PBS kids shows too, which sounds like a cool thing, unless you’re in public at, say the Flint Children’s Museum, surrounded by a dozen kids and their parents when she decides to put her expanding vocabulary into practice by saying, “Stop annoying me, daddy. That mean’s stop bothering me.” I got her back, though, by waiting for most of the giggling parents to move on and a new group to move in. Then I turned to P. Daddy and in my creepy uncle voice said, “These kids are so cute. Makes you wanna have one of your own, doesn’t it?” It’s amazing how quickly a group of parents and their kids can clear a room.

And now she’s developing the insufferable knack of challenging me. Not in the normal boundary-pushing way that you’d expect from a five year old, but in the I-can-do-it-better-than-you way that makes one lose their sense of parental nurturing and start channeling Betty Davis or worse, Joan Crawford. As we were getting ready to go bowling the other night, Alexis started in with the trash talkin’. She had never been bowling before, but listening to the one-liners she was dishing up, you’d never know it. “I’m gonna do better than you, daddy. I’m gonna knock more pins down than you, daddy. P. Daddy’s gonna beat you too, daddy. “ Oh give me a break! For all the trash talkin’ that girl did, she was barely able to muster a 70 on the first game. And that was with gutter bumpers in place. (And for the record, she didn’t knock down more pins than me.)

Since the wager on our bowling challenge was that the winner buy dinner, I guess I was on the hook for this one (this kids’ a lot smarter than I give her credit for). We all love Japanese food, and usually that means a trip to Sagano in the plaza on the corner of Corunna and Linden. Their sushi is every bit as good as sushi I’ve eaten in cities like D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle. We’ve eaten there so many times, the owners gave us a personal invitation to join them for the pre-opening party of their second restaurant in Brighton. Our beloved sushi bar would have to wait, however, because we heard a new Japanese place had opened up, and of course we had to try it.

Fuji Bistro, on the corner of Lennon and Linden (the building formerly housed Mr. Brown’s, and before that The Golden Corral) advertises itself as an upscale Japanese Sushi, Steak, and Seafood Buffett. Their take-out menu, which is actually an elaborate eight-panel flyer with 151 food choices, says that “At Fuji, we have elevated buffet dining to a new standard. We have created a unique menu that consist of both innovatively modern and purely traditional Japanese dishes, punctuated with seafood, Dimsum,…all prepared by skilled, famous chef, using fresh quality ingredient and artful display.” The writing teacher in me wanted to do an editing job on their blurb, but I resisted.

The restaurant is tastefully and a bit conservatively decorated, and the staff are all perky and excessively polite. Our hostess even gave us a grand tour of the place, including the split dining room and all six of the food stations. I was feeling a little dirty when we first walked in, like I was cheating on my old stand-by, Sagano, but as we passed the gigantic sushi bar, staffed by six chefs, my guilt began to dissipate. That means it started to go away.

In addition to platters of sashimi, thinly sliced raw fish, there were also several platters of nigiri, thinly sliced raw fish on a small ball of rice. Some of the regulars, like yellowtail, salmon, eel, tuna, and mackerel were featured, but the bar also served up octopus, squid, red clam, fluke, and flying fish roe. Alexis turns her nose up at the sushi, but Philip and I are all over it. The quality is not nearly as good as Sagano, but it is more than acceptable. The bar also features at least a dozen other platters with offerings like spicy tuna rolls, California rolls, dragon rolls, rainbow rolls, and some signature house inspirations. The sushi bar itself is worth the price.

The salad bar includes a bunch of classic American choices but also features cold udon noodles and a very good seaweed salad. Dressed with just enough sesame oil, this Japanese staple is delicious with sushi. It’s a little odd to see such an elegant dish alongside ranch dressing and strawberry Jell-O, but this is a buffet, after all.

The largest section of the buffet has some of Alexis’ favorite foods such as hot udon noodles, rice, and tempura vegetables. There are so many choices in this section that it’s hard to decide what to take and what to leave. The tempura shrimp are outstanding, as are the steamed clams, and the raw oysters on the half-shell. I am a sucker for good crab legs, and Fuji had what looked like the mother lode, piles and piles of them. I should have been ecstatic at the sight of such a bounty, but instead it gave me a nightmarish flashback.

I was at another buffet last week , Wing Fong, where crab legs are also featured. They were snow crab legs and enormous in size. Some rude and pushy woman, however, charged to the crab station before I even had a chance to pick up a plate. She mounded so much crab on her plate that it made a giant tower nearly a foot high. As she lugged her catch back to the table, I was left staring at an empty pot of stinky water. I was pissed! But at Fuji, the crab pot is bottomless and no need to map out a strategy for getting your fair share The problem is that the crab legs are pretty small and just ok as far as the taste.

If seafood’s not your thing, Fuji offers other options: free, cooked to order New York Strip Steak, a cooked to order Rib-eye steak for a dollar ninety-nine extra, or a filet mignon cooked to order for an extra two ninety nine. These steak add-ons, while attractive options, feel like overkill, since there are so many meat choices otherwise. And don’t fret, vegetarian friends, there are plenty of veggie choices for you as well, including hibachi style noodles and vegetables, cooked to order while you wait.

For twenty bucks a person (less for kids, but I’m not sure how they calculate it; Alexis, who is five, was charged nine bucks, a bit much, but she did eat her share for a thirty pound kid), Fuji is a pretty good alternative to the dozens of other buffet choices in the Flint area. I’m not sure how they will do in the long run, but early signs indicate that a loyal local following is already beginning to materialize.

As an incentive to get her to finish her dinner and clean her plate, I told Alexis I’d take her to the swimming pool at the YMCA (bribes always work in my house, especially with Alexis) “That’s a good idea daddy. Maybe we could have a race.” Oh, you silly, silly child. I read Mommy Dearest, and I already know how this race will end.” Judging by how much sushi I packed away, though, I better hold off on the trash talk until the race is over.


  1. OMG, I can't believe she's 5 already! It sounds like she's a foodie in training. :)

  2. Oh, she is just getting started with questioning your omnipotence. You're still in the phase when you think she's kinda cute/precocious. Eventually, it quits being funny.

  3. Interesting. I'd just heard from a couple people how terrible the food was. I shall have to consider.