Just a short updater on Fuki Sushi, probably a known entity to most sushi monsters within a 40-mile radius of Palo Alto. The landmark restaurant at 4119 El Camino Real is the granddad of all Peninsula sushi restaurants, in business since 1978. Despite intense competition on all sides, it remains an enduring favorite for many Palo Altans. These days it is probably known as much for the quality and depth of its cooked menu as it is for the quality of its sushi.
I get the impression that at this point Fuki Sushi runs like a big, well-engineered machine, beyond the signature of any one itamae. At noon straight up, I was just one of three patrons at the long, 14-seat bar, with four chef's stations. Although it meets my basic criteria for a quality bar (you can see the fish, watch the itamae work and talk to him) it's not the sort of place where you're encouraged to chat up the chef. Get your order in, eat it and thankyouverymuch.
Some days you just get lucky on the most ordinary things, and this was one of those days for me, with two of my benchmark favorites. The sake (Alaskan, farm-raised salmon) was far above average in both texture and bright, clean taste. And the hotate (scallop) had a very fine melt-in-your-mouth texture and mild taste. I'd grade the ebi (shrimp) as tough and the kani (snow crab) and mussel as "just OK." Best item on my list: The spicy salmon roll, four futomaki pieces with green onion and Fuki's proprietary spicy maki sauce. A bargain at $4.95.
There is value here (actually much *better* value than the low-end Sushi Tomo kaiten operation right across El Camino Way from Fuki's parking lot). It was not as expensive as I'd been led to expect from word-of-mouth. My nigiri averaged 4.25 a plate, just a notch above the median for the area. My lunch total was $41, with tax, tip and no beverages.
So we've got quality fish at a fair price. No argument there. So why am I slotting this landmark in the middle tier of my Peninsula list, just below Koma in Menlo Park and just above Ganko in San Carlos? The whole experience lacked any sort of warmth. Yes the wait service was good. From the warm towel at the start to the check presentation, the waitress was right on her game. But I'm talking about something more personal. For example, as I got up to leave, I addressed the itamae with a quiet but emphatic "domo arigato," as I always do when I've been served good sushi. He just barely looked up from his work and nodded. Am I being overly sensitive? Maybe. But in the world of sushi, little things *do* mean a lot.
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