Many people mourned the loss of South King Lounge, located in the same complex as longtime karaoke bar Anyplace Lounge. The owners were denied visa renewal, leaving them to re-restart their lives in Tokyo.
The old space is home to a new restaurant now, and I think it will appeal to both locals and Japanese nationals who want a taste of home.
My neighbor Stacy Uyehara owns a housewares shop in that same complex called Itadakimasu, so she watched the new spot build out over the last several months. On soft opening day recently, she took me to dinner there to get a first taste.
The first thing is the name. Why Fujiyama Texas? Their original branch is in Tokyo, and the owner, Koichi Sato, just liked the way “Texas” sounded, as well as the East-meets-West kind of name. He’s never even been to Texas, though, so that is pretty much the extent of the Western reference in the restaurant.
Most of the food here is kushikatsu, or fried food on a stick. Who doesn’t love that, right? There are some salads, desserts, and rice and noodle dishes (see below), but the main reason to come here is for that piping hot fried goodness in a way that only a real Japanese restaurant can do.
Meet the husband-and-wife team, Koichi and Sally Sato. Koichi does all the cooking, Sally does everything else. My initial impression of the ebb and flow of the crowd tells me it is probably better to make a reservation, if possible. On Wednesday nights, Anyplace Lounge has a $1 oyster shot special, so the parking lot is super crowded until 7:30 or 8 p.m., so keep that in mind, as well.
I don’t normally post photos of the menu, but there’s a lot of different ranges and items “coming soon,” so I figured it’s easier for you to peruse it yourself. As you can see, though, it’s pretty reasonable all around.
We ordered the fresh lemon chuhai ($5.50, a shochu cocktail), which seemed to be popular with Japanese nationals. It was okay, but when we came back and had the Calpico mango chuhai ($6), we thought that was more of a winner. Note that every table and spots along the counter have several condiments, like sriracha, yellow mustard, shoyu, ponzu, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and katsu sauce. Koichi said the lemon juice would taste good on everything, but I could hardly taste it. I preferred the katsu sauce on everything, and ended up using a lot of it because their sauce is so delicate. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing; maybe they prefer that we taste the flavors of the skewered items, whereas Hawaii people are heavy-handed with the condiments (like me).
Fried food on a stick isn’t very photogenic, but the main thing is that they taste good! Koichi recommended the prime rib fingers ($2 each), and they were very good and easy to eat. I’d probably recommend that first, of all the menu items. Their friend told us that we needed to order Japanese-style, which is two of each item, but you actually don’t need to do that. (I’m telling you this in case someone tells you what you “have to” do.)
I’d also highly recommend the plump, juicy chicken wings ($1.95 each).
That’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend anything else; those were my favorite items. We tried everything from vegetables to seafood to meat, even kushikatsu cheese and mochi, and it was all good. Hello! Fried cheese on a stick, who doesn’t love that?
One item we could skip is the kim chee. I know the sign says it “tastes great on kushikatsu, too,” but this brand was a little too sour for us to match with the fried foods.
The daikon salad is nice and light, with shredded daikon and its sprouts on a bed of greens, topped with nori and a yuzu shiso dressing. It’s a nice contrast to all the hot, fried foods.
I really liked the Fujiyama salad, which has a bed of greens and a rustic scoop of potato salad with bacon chips and sweet onion dressing. Not too many restaurants make a good potato salad, and this was probably something I could eat on my own without sharing. It’s not too vinegary and the dressing adds a nice sweetness.
If you still have room for dessert, I highly recommend the yuzu sorbet from Kochi, Japan. It’s not pictured here because it’s really just a white blob, but it’s a perfectly delicious end to a fried meal. The sorbet is light, slightly tart and sweet, and doesn’t fill you up. If you are still a little hungry, the kushikatsu roll cake is a good choice. I thought it was genius, actually. Get a tasty roll cake and bread it and fry it? Why not? And of course it’s great with the cold, creamy ice cream.
Overall Fujiyama Texas is a good value and pretty much everything is good — just order the things that you like, and you should be satisfied. They are currently only open for dinner and have quirky opening days: 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Monday, and closed on the third Monday of each month.
2065 S. King St.