I love writing about eating places that I think of highly as much as I love writing about restaurants that I hate. This is because to rave and to rant is easy to do. Whether I'm ecstatically happy about a dining experience or fuming mad about one, my emotions take control and that good or bad review practically writes itself. There's almost no effort to it, since I know I sway completely in either one direction or the other.
Writing about lackluster experiences are harder. What do I say about a restaurant that left me unsatisfied but respectful? What can I say about an experience where I can't say I hated or loved anything in particular?
This is the dilemma I have with Fukada.
Perhaps trying this restaurant for the first time after a lot of favorable and energetic reviews set my expectations too high. Maybe we weren't in a mood to try something new. Maybe our hunger just wanted to be fed. Whatever the case, we left hungry after spending $17 per person, an amount that we all noted would have filled us up more satisfyingly at our favorite place, Honda-Ya in Tustin.
Here's how our evening went down:
We started with the Simmered Pork. Also known as buta kakuni, it is simply a few hunks of pork belly cooked in a broth of shoyu and mirin. Spectacularly fatty and luscious, it was a great start and primed my taste buds for more.
Then came the Fried Chicken Wings. Arranged artfully in a pinwheel on a white plate over a thin dark broth, the wings had a golden crisp skin but otherwise no flavor. All that the pool of salty broth did to it was make it soggy.
Next was the Soft Shell Crab, which had to be the scrawniest runt of the litter. The fried crustacean, barely measuring more than three inches across was cut in half at the middle. So effectively, there were only two bites to be had. The ponzu sauce that was served along side was overly tart.
The Crunch Roll that came with the Soba Special was next. These were your standard crunch roll, covered in an avalanche of tempura crumbs. It went down without an afterthought. Again nothing noteworthy or objectionable about it. There were maybe only four pieces to be had anyway.
The Soba, which also was dusted with tempura was okay. "Okay?" Surely I can come up with a better description than just "okay". No. Not really. It tasted fine, with a firm texture. But what can I say, its just cold noodles dressed in soy based dip. I've had soba at the Mitsuwa food court a few times before, and to me, Fukada's soba was no different than those. I didn't love or hate this dish. And yes, I know it's made in-house. And yes, I know it's what they are known for. To me, these facts do not elevate this dish to be more than it is.
The Broiled Cod dish is also another dish that was recommended highly. This one was more memorable to me. I liked how the delicate flesh of the fish contrasted with the bold miso sauce. The presentation was also dramatic, with a few arty garnishes placed at odd angles. Squirt bottles were definitely used here.
So there it is. Fukada.
If I could summarize everything in one word, it would be: "...meh"
I might come back someday, but only if I'm sure that Honda-Ya is closed.
8683 Irvine Center Dr
Irvine, CA 92618