Calling all sushi virgins

Spinnaker

“But I’ve never had sushi,” said a scared voice over the phone, half reluctant to accept my offer and half dead-scared.

Introducing your friends to sushi is a pleasurable responsibility. A very carefully planned one, too.

I wanted to take my friend to Fuji Sushi Bar and Grill off Beach Boulevard.

“What if I don’t like it?” she said. I took that into account, too. Fuji serves a lot more than sushi: tempura, nigiri, dumplings and hibachi. The array of Japanese choices are plentiful on the menu, and best of all, it’s all super cheap!

A hearty meal for two, including bowls of miso soup, hibachi, tea and sushi, will cost around $25.

Miso soup, a dish many people overlook, is a masterpiece, in my eyes. The simplicity of its creation calls only for vegetable stock, miso paste, green onions and mushrooms. The combination of these ingredients makes a delicate hot soup, incredibly flavorful and shockingly light. Dashes of soy sauce can transform the soup and give it a subtle salty aftertaste. I prefer mine the traditional way.

“I like soup,” she said.

The friendly servers at Fuji reassure your confidence at every step with a big smile.

My first sushi roll was the California roll, and until this day, I have regretted that. My friend’s first roll must be the dynamite roll. As explosive in taste as its name, the dynamite roll is deep-fried, made with salmon, crabmeat and asparagus, topped off with a spicy sauce. If paired well with the sweet pickled ginger, the spicy and sweet form a medley of flavors. Fuji makes excellent dynamite rolls.

Fuji also makes a variety of self-invented rolls, including the Baymeadow roll (also deep fried and one of my favorites), a vegetarian sweet potato roll and a rock ‘n’ Roll: crabstick, cream cheese, cucumber, shrimp tempura, seaweed wrapping with eel sauce. Who can pass that up?

Fuji also serves nigiri sushi, consisting of a hand-formed small clump of rice with a slice of fresh fish on top. Only well-qualified chefs and good-quality fish can make a good nigiri. Japanese cuisine is all about careful crafting.

The humble sushi chef behind the bar diligently works on the rolls, delicately carving piece after piece of sushi and sending his creations to the customers. His small body heaves under his chef coat while the calmness on his face resonates in his work and the atmosphere. The only time he lifts his head is to say, “Welcome to Fuji,” and “Bye-bye!”

In case my friend didn’t like the sushi (almost an impossibility), she could order steak hibachi — a dish that comes with noodles, vegetables, a choice of meat and, if desired, fried rice.

Fuji’s interior isn’t massive but kept very casual and airy. Minimal décor — a laughing Buddha on the counter and a few television screens mounted up top — keeps the small restaurant fairly relaxing. The mind doesn’t get overwhelmed with the usual expensive artwork on the walls or chains of buzzing servers but stays attentive to the most important aspect of dining: the food.

“Fine,” she said with a bit more confidence.

My friend and I plan to visit Fuji within the week. If you have someone you’d like to take on a sushi foodie adventure, Fuji has good food and service and very affordable prices. Tell the smiling greeters Henna sent you.

For an exclusive video review of Henna’s foodie adventure at Fuji, visit unfspinnaker.com.