The name is funny. There is simply no getting around it. And it makes for some interesting conversations. What did you did tonight? “Fugakyu.” What the hell did you just say to me? “No, no—Fugakyu.” An innocent meal at a Japanese restaurant can, it seems, set you up for a beating. But what a meal. In fact, if an insulted, drunken acquaintance had decided to kill me after I ate at Fugakyu Saturday night, I would have died a happy—if bloated—man.
For the sushi at Fugakyu, nestled snugly in the heart of picturesque Brookline, is phenomenal. For students who have not ventured beyond the leaden-fingered offerings at Shilla and the microscopic portions at the pride of Cambridge’s Futon District, Roka, it is time to upgrade. It is surprisingly hard to get to Fugakyu from Harvard —over an hour on the T—but it is well worth befriending, dating or marrying someone with a car solely for easier access to the best sushi in Boston.
The restaurant has two warmly-lit floors, with relaxing aquatic sounds piped throughout. Diners can choose to sit at small second-floor tables overlooking video screens of traditional Japanese images or at comfortably exclusive first-floor booths for parties of at least four. Friendly waitresses attend, clad in traditional kimonos. Yet despite the heady atmosphere, food is the real star at Fugakyu.
The spicy tuna hand roll is staggering, a near life-changing experience. Minced marinated tuna is served with avocado, cucumber strips and vinegared rice, wrapped conically in a sheet of seaweed. The result is the epitome of balance: smooth versus crunchy, rich versus spicy, filling versus refreshing.
Tuna appears again in the form of toro sushi, an extra fatty version of the fish, highly prized in Japan for its supple texture, served over rice with a hint of wasabi. Sushi is all about the quality of the raw materials, and the toro at Fugakyu was as fresh as could be. Giant clam sushi, however, billed as the special of the day, was repellent and the one misfire of the night. It tasted like a gargantuan, fishy belly button.
Fugakyu is most famous, however, not for its traditional nigiri sushi as for its impressive array of Americanized maki rolls. Caterpillar roll, containing barbecued eel and cucumber surrounded by rice and thin slivers of ripe avocado, was a successful (and amusing) concoction. The sweetness of the barbecue sauce worked well countered by a drop of the potent wasabi and a slice of the pickled ginger. Spider roll, containing an entire deep-fried soft-shell crab, was a delicious, gut-busting treat. Eating the mammoth rolls was quite a challenge—but one well worth taking.
Many of the rolls contain cooked fish or vegetables, perfect for any diners who are interested in sushi but put off by the idea of eating raw fish. In addition to those named above, Fugakyu offers delicious rolls filled with cooked crayfish, shrimp and a variety of vegetables. One dining companion went for the Idaho roll, which contained sweet potato, pronouncing it excellent.
In fact, Fugakyu has plenty of options for non-sushi eaters. Vegetable tempura is a large appetizer of crisply-fried produce, among which the eggplant and asparagus were particularly notable. There are skewers of tender marinated teriyaki beef and deep-fried shrimp, perfect for the faint-of-heart. And dishes of hot plentiful edamame beans—so heavily salted that they resemble an organic version of Fritos—make the perfect accompaniment to the range of sake or the excellent dry Pinot Grigio ($22) offered.
Fugakyu is, like most upscale Japanese restaurants, an expensive night out. It is easy to scarf down myriad plates of sushi and only feel nauseous when the bill arrives. However, the difference between Fugakyu and its rivals is that its food validates the lofty prices. You are paying for quality, and will be far from shortchanged. In fact, Fugakyu is the perfect spot both for a romantic date or a boisterous trip with friends. Be warned, though, they do not take reservations for parties under 10 and arrival at a peak time—especially between 7 and 10 p.m. on a weekend night—can result in a hefty wait. And after you finish your meal and return merrily to Harvard Square, just don’t answer honestly when people ask where you’ve been. Or your feast at Fugakyu could turn out to be your last supper.
1280 Beacon St.