My Special One feels about sushi the way I feel about French cheeses. We respect the traditions surrounding these food forms, the significance of their names and could live almost exclusively off our respective passions (with the addition of some bread in my case). If we were to order an “Appalachian Tomme” from a local vendor, I would feel obligated to state the case of why the cheese should not have “Tomme” in the title despite its flavor merits. Accordingly, when I order brown rice sushi at more grain-conscious establishments, my Special One feels obligated to tell me brown rice is a bastardization of the very word “sushi,” which refers to the vinegared white rice.
Cheese snobbery and grain preferences aside, this anecdote points to my novice approach to sushi, and why I usually defer sushi menu deciphering to my Special One. His rice reverence brings me to another vocabulary lesson: Fukuda, or Blessed Rice Paddy.
Fukuda is the new kid on the block, and it has a bunch of hits [yes I did just dip into 90s pop culture], which we sampled as part of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. We had the ideal dining spot, poised right before the sushi chef at work.
A realtor would call this addition to the Bloomfield neighborhood a cozy or quaint establishment. In the case of Fukuda, these words are apt for more than size descriptors. The interior is not what you might expect from a Japanese restaurant. Rather than put bamboo in every nook and corner, Fukuda features the layered and nostalgic aesthetic of artist Ron Copeland. While the space is meant to function as a changing gallery of artists’ work, I do hope a base of Copeland’s work remains.
Restaurant Week Tasting Menu: Chef’s Choice 4-piece Nigiri (left)
Nigiri sampler (regular menu)
Foie gras butter, roasted beet powder, housemade Takoyaki sauce, scallion
Takoyaki are Japanese octopus dumplings. After the taste of the sweet and tangy sauce, there’s the richness of the foie gras butter, then you bite through the soft texture and arrive at a firm piece of octopus. If you are unsure about octopus, I still recommend trying these!
Restaurant Week Tasting Menu: Kusshi Oysters
Juniper shisho granita, thai chili, fresh lemon
Restaurant Week Tasting Menu: Simmered Pork Belly
Coriander & Japanese mustard sauce, cilantro, togarashi, crispy ginger
Shiitake Chocolate Ice Cream
Chocolate dipped shiitake mushrooms and lavender
The best way I can describe the dessert finale is to tell you to imagine eating a cold, creamy shiitake mushroom with a chocolaty base, at which point, you’ll probably turn up your nose mid-imagining. It’s better just to try this because somehow Fukuda made mushrooms work for dessert! Fukuda makes a lot of things work really well, and it just may be the place that sets me on a sushi roll [and a string of bad puns]! My Special One and I will return soon because the ramen is calling, and I say that as someone who typically has zero interest in ramen.