Not everyone in the world loves Sushi. I can sympathize with ya...it's raw meat! To some it is a texture thing...to others it is just the sight of raw seafood on a plate. It sent shivers down my spine years ago too. I was in your seat years at one point..it grows on ya though! Some might say it eventually becomes an obsession. My Wife and I cant go for very long without going on the hunt for it. Sometimes random scraps of Ahi Tuna or a bit of minced Salmon Belly (while butchering) at work fill the craving...but usually not! We were quite excited and a lil bit nervous about the fact that when we googled Sushi in the Oil Fields...up popped more than one place. We debated the fact there should not be a Sushi joint so far away from an major Ocean...or at least a really freaking big lake with a bounty of Northern Hemisphere fish to which no one has ever tasted. Before we even had a home to live in ... we had our first meal at "Fuji's Japanese Restaurant"....and we return time after time.
The traditional form of Sushi is actually fermented Fish with Rice. The term actually means "It's Sour"...referring to the fermented Fish. Nowdays it is usually some form of raw or cooked seafood mixed with julienne vegetables or fruits and sauce wrapped in Nori Seaweed...usually accompanied by pickled Ginger and Wasabi Mustard Paste. Chefs around the world have used Fusion to create a million different rolls. Everything from South West versions to Middle Eastern. The roll fits into any Culture. One of the best my Wife and I have had was in Las Vegas at Chinois (Wolfgang Puck)...we snapped pics of his too.
Fuji's Japanese Restaurant is owned and managed by Ron Lim. A Chinese Canadian born in Vancouver,BC. He has had the Restaurant on Franklin for the past seven years. Previous to Fuji he was in the lower mainland honing his craft at various establishments.
The following was a quickie interview with Ron :
Anything I make...you must try and love your food daily!
Did you go to School to learn your trade?
I learned by watching and helping both my Mother and my Father. You couldn't ask for better teachers!
Atlantic Salmon and Halibut
Hardest thing to get up here?
Uni (Sea Urchin) and Fresh Oysters. It is very hard to source either item ... you have to really trust your suppliers when it comes to such items. The transportation is essential...the faster the better.
Do you have Family in town?
I have a Wife and three Children. My Wife works at the Restaurant as well.
Will the Children eventually talke over the Business?
Not if I get my way. The Restaurant business is a hard one. It takes a particular kind of person to handle this career choice. I would prefer they chose other trades...I would like an easier life for them.
Worst Horror story in the Kitchen?
I was overconfident...I was brought down a few notches...but confidence as a chef is not a bad thing.
Why do you love making Sushi?
Restaurant life is my life...I couldn't do anything else. I wouldn't know how to do anything else.
What is a piece of advice you would give to a novice just getting into the field?
Find another trade...it is a very unappreciative field..unless you can really handle the stress and criticism.
Would you do it all over again?
For sure... definite yes!
Retire early hopefully.
How much fish do you buy a year?
Now this question took some pondering on Ron's part. Luckily his Fish Supplier was in the booth right behind us lol...three of us crunching numbers came up with a figure of 10,000lbs +
This exludes all the garnish items.
Where do you find your staff?
Toronto and Vancouver usually.
Oddest ingredient you have ever used?
Now I was expecting some wild and crazy answer here...."I got my lic. to break down Puffer Fish" kinda thing. Ron actually couldn't come up with anything really exotic....I chaulk this up to what's common for him is uncommon to us Oil Patch folk.
How did you end up in Oil Sands of Alberta?
A family friend had a business here.
What would you consider your Signature Dish"?
I would have to say my Spicy Texas Roll and my Vancouver Style Dragon Roll. The Texas Roll has Tempura Prawns, Tomatoes, Avocado and Salmon..while the Dragon Roll is Tempura Prawn, BBQ Eel, Tuna and Salmon. We tried both for lunch today and they were as amazing as they sound.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I just try new combinations as often as possible. I trust my palate. If I like it I assume others will too.
What kind of SeaWeed is in the Miso Soup? (I had to ask this)
Wakame...just a thicker cut than you see usually.
I had never spoken with any of the staff before last night. We always toy with the idea of going into the private rooms and having the whole Japanese experience...but to date have always just opted for a booth with a view of the pass so we can watch the Chefs working. One of these days we will have a lil get together with friends and fellow cooks behind the closed blinds. We have always been greeted at the door by Vincent. His smile just never fades. Always very chatty about the food....and we love talking about food. He always has some little piece of advice about how to eat something...how it is made...or where it has come from. I also now know that Ron truly loves what he does...as did his whole kitchen team. It was more like watching three artists all night long than three Chefs. Just watching their fingers as they worked was amazing...I cant make my hands move like that! They were full of laughs and jokes the whole time I snapped my pics. Even more laughs when I asked some stupid question. A guys gotta learn somehow...and I left with a little bit more knowledge than I came in with. The many uses of plastic wrap...for both rolling and garnish. Dipping ones knife into water before each slice of the roll. Even the correct way of cutting Sashimi. Everyone loves their job and that shows up in the food and the service.
Ron, Mark and Simon all put out beautiful plates. I was constantly running to the pass to snap another pic of something new as it appeared. The ingredients are all Fresh...the colours so vibrant..the placement just right..and the ornate carved garnishes all blended together to make food that just wants to be eaten. It has to be one of the most beautiful forms of food. Everything in its Raw Natural state for the most part.
Sushi is also quite good for you. Moderation in anything is a good rule to follow. The Sashimi and Nigiri are better for you than rolls because of the sauces used in the rolls. The sauces add even more flavour though. I firmly believe in "try it all"...no matter how odd it looks or tastes. New flavours are always exciting...and if they are good for you too..that works!!
Our regular meal at Fuji consists of starting with a bit of Green Tea. I like the fact that the teapot didn't look like it was stained with a hundred years of use. We also got a small warmed Sake. We usually have the Miso Soup to begin with...a broth called Dashi (Bonito Tuna based) with Miso Paste mixed in..small cubed silken Tofu and Wakame Seaweed..sprinkled with a little Scallion. My Wife's new favorite afterwards is Sunomono. More soup than salad..it is Saifun Noodles and Cucumber in a sweet yet tart chilled broth..with a sqeeze of lemon over it. Next comes the Fuji Boat...Now we usually just order the Sushi Boat. We decided to switch it up this time. It is literally a boat full of food....gorgeous food. The Fuji consists of Hot and Cold items...we had never had the Hots before. Always there to subdue the Raw craving. I have found a new favorite...Ron's Chicken Teriyaki is freakin AMAZING!! I really loved the braised cabbage as well. He also sent out his Vancouver Style Dragon Roll...sooo good! We are never able to eat more than half the food that is put down infront of us. I am not a lover of leftovers...I dont think I ever ask for a Doggie Bag at a restaurant...not so at a Sushi joint. I always leave Fuji's with my midnight snack or lunch the next day. If your not going to consume it within the next 12hrs dont bother....it just isn't the same.
In the Mountains of BC we had a Sushi-esque Restaurant...they had a Japanese trained Chef. The Sushi was ok...but we went there for dessert. There was a young lad there that produced dessert Sushi. A moldable chocolate was created into a sheet...just like Nori Seaweed...then fresh fruit,cake,sauces etc etc were rolled into the chocolate sheet...Voila...Dessert Sushi! It was the perfect way to finish a night...will have to mention that one to Ron. The flavours of the fresh fruit just jumped right out at you...and there wasn't enough chocolate to feel guilty over.You can get Green Tea Ice Cream at Fuji though....an excellent way to fill that last little bit of stomach left over after the meal.
Christina and I are both glad to have Ron and his Staff here. Every Oil Field needs a Sushi Bar! You would be surprised at just how busy the place can get. Good food draws people...and Fuji's is fulfilling a niche in Fort McMurray. We had an amazing evening...and want to thank Ron and Vincent especially. I hope you get to retire early Ron...but not before we leave the Black Sands first!! Deal?
The Best Part is "They Deliver!!"
200-8706 Franklin Ave