Raw fish usually doesn’t tempt me, but I was drawn into Fuji on Exchange Street last Friday night by their weekend special: DJ sushi.
A growing trend in the Portland sushi scene, this dance-club-style dining combines pounding music and nightclub lighting to attract timid sushi eaters like myself. Fuji’s version included a spinning disco ball at the top of the stairs, spiraling lights, and a small dance floor next to a large bar plus a chef-turned-DJ playing some seriously loud music.
Gimmicks aside, Fuji is about the food and sushi making is an art. Although I was on the lower level of the restaurant, while the owner of the sushi bar prepared the sushi upstairs, from my seat I could watch him on a small television monitor. He rolled lengths of vegetables and fish in white sticky rice and then in nori, a sheet of edible seaweed. Concentration was visible on his face.
On a menu that glowed in the black light, I studied a checklist to make my choices.
The sushi was served on two Japanese-style platters. The bright colors of the fish and vegetables stood out in the dark and white spiral of each roll. Like the menu, and other light-colored objects, they also glowed in the black light. I’ll admit that I was still wary of uncooked seafood, so I took advantage of some of the vegetable options available. I also tried a few fish selections but they weren’t at the top of my list. Among my choices were Avo-Kyu (avocado and cucumber), Shiitake (a Japanese mushroom) and Philly (salmon and cream cheese). All of the sushi rolls were $2.50 each, which was cut into 6 pieces.
Side dishes were also available and the house salad was a big hit at my table. The homemade ginger dressing was out of this world. It reminded us of Thousand Island but it was ten times better. A tasty miso soup was also a special that night at $1.50.
The use of chopsticks was not required but it seemed only right to try to maneuver the utensils. It was clear I was struggling, however, and the staff gave me what I call cheat sticks: chopsticks held together at the top by a rubber band. My friends and I found these quite amusing and were allowed to take them as souvenirs.
As we were eating, the music and the DJ kept us amused. The DJ had tons of energy and seemed to be having the time of his life, even though I’m sure he does the same thing every Friday and Saturday night. He was playing classic rock as well as dance music and he even got a few people out on the dance floor. Between the sushi and the rock music I was having a lot of fun for not much cash. I had no idea sushi could be so fun.
Besides offering DJ sushi from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night, Fuji serves lunch and dinner daily.
Besides sushi, the lower level also has hibachi tables. The customers sit around these large tables which feature a built in griddle where a cook prepares your food. Here the chef chops, tosses and cooks the food right before your eyes: half dinner, half show. These were closed when we arrived but I was told they’re a favorite of the customers. The upstairs portion of the restaurant is split in half with the sushi bar on one side and tatami tables on the other. These are Japanese style tables that are just above the floor with a seat that dips down for comfort. It looks as though you are sitting on the floor when in fact you are actually sitting in a sort of “underground” seat. The overall look of the upstairs is elegant.
DJ sushi was a good time and the food was an adventure for me, but I think I’ll go back to eating my salmon cooked.
Staff Writer Katie Gallagher can be contacted at: [email protected].