Friday, November 16, 2012

Fukuda Sushi in Bloomfield

Edamame and Seafood Ramen

There's a new sushi place in town: Fukuda. It's in Bloomfield in the space of the old Stagioni, which relocated to the South Side where the old Le Pommier used to be. It's not just sushi--but multiple Japanese foods, including ramen, grilled skewered meats and many more items, all house-made and quite flavorful. It's getting the endorsement of many chefs and restaurant personnel. Why? Because the food is really good, and the people behind it care about all the details.

Chef's Choice Sampler ($24)

Fukuda is great Sushi. But what do I know about sushi? I'm a big, bumbling Caucasian who eats food like whales scoop plankton. I did spent a period of my life wandering through the streets of New York City eating sushi until I was penniless. I sat in front of a sushi chef who stared into my soul and made me a three hour omakase. Not a word was spoken--just tacit, mutual nods of agreement. I ate at a place near the Empire State Building where colorful boats of sushi floated to you on a lazy-river of plated raw fish. I can't remember what any of that stuff tasted like 20 years hence; I just knew that I liked this new thing, sushi, and it was pretty easy to spot stuff that you should avoid.

Kampachi and Zuke.
Chef Matt Kemp was the sole sushi-master of the now-defunct mega-bar/ultra-lounge/supper club Emilia Romagna. He had previously worked at Tamari, whose fusion oriented sushi is quite good. I met Matt over a beer with my friend Hoon, and they were planning to open a restaurant as I was planning to open my taco truck. Matt is humble and soft-spoken and chooses his words carefully. He is nimble and focused and will tirelessly research every element of the food he presents. And so his sushi: soft spoken, simple and elegant with no "go ahead, you take it" last pieces lingering on the platter. Each piece a story in itself. Perhaps sometimes delving into an indulgently odd-sounding or superfluous accoutrement. But unforgettable. And a lot of it is flown in fresh from a fish market in Japan.

Choptank Oyster with Housemade Ponzu.

The work Matt did at Emilia Romagna is documented beautifully by my friend who writes Food Collage. We returned there for an hour-long sushi flight after sampling a bit of his sushi.

They have dialed-in the atmosphere to "just so" on so many levels, including the music and lighting, centered around a custom designed minimalist sushi bar. (No liquor license yet, but  BYOB as of now.) This dining room fills up quickly, but it doesn't get very loud. The night I went it was fairly lively on a Thursday, with a nice mix of couples and groups and even a kid or two.

Chef Matt explaining his cutlery.
I had offered my friends an idea: why not late-night sushi? Stay open until 2AM a few nights; get the chef crowd, possibly. I am not alone in wanting more late night food options in Pittsburgh than Primanti's. Fukuda has chosen to do so with a late-night menu Fridays and Saturdays until 2AM, and they are open until 11PM most other nights. But they were attracting food enthusiasts and food-industry folks all Summer long as they "popped up" with their portable sushi bar in pretty much every location imaginable, and most memorably on the sidewalk in front of their under-construction dining room in Bloomfield many a humid night.

Chef Matt Kemp with the "pop-up" bar on the sidewalk this Summer.
But they aren't doing just sushi. There's ramen, robotayaki, okonomiyaki and more stuff you may've never heard of. Check out their menu in the meantime: be continued.

Fukuda on Urbanspoon

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