Exaggeration of every kind is as essential to journalism as it is to dramatic art, for the object of journalism is to make events go as far as possible."
– Arthur Schopenhauer, German Philosopher
A few weeks ago one of our local food writers reviewed a new Japanese restaurant located just off the main strip in Barrio Chino. One of the assertions made was “Para empezar debo decir que probé las gyosas mejores de mi vida, sin exagerar.”, or, “To start I have to say that I tried the best gyozas in my life, without exaggeration.” At a later juncture, she also asserts that some of the sushi tried is, in essence, invented on site and not available anywhere else (an example given is salmon with mango and avocado, available from almost any sushi bar here I can think of). On the other hand, this same columnist recently wrote up one of our favorite Peruvian restaurants, Zadvarie, claiming that it is the only place in town offering ocopa arequipeña because they have the only source of huacatay herb in town through a store in Barrio Chino. We eat the dish regularly at other restaurants (and it’s better at some and not as good at others), and as regular readers here know, I buy huacatay in the markets in Liniers by the bagful for mere pesos.
Regardless, I’ve met this writer and found her to be charming, delightful, and knowledgeable. And as noted in the quote above, an essential part of journalism is exaggeration. I met up with my friend Victor the other day in Barrio Chino to check out the amazing dumplings and sushi inventions, not holding my breath for quite the stunning experience described, but looking forward to one that was likely to be quite good. The space at Fujisan, Mendoza 1650, 4784-1313, is one of the prettier Japanese restaurants I’ve seen in the city. Very tranquil, soothing, and well designed, with friendly though completely, as it turned out, inefficient staff. Friendliness goes a long way, but at some point delays and forgotten items overcome that. We started off with one of my favorite cold Japanese appetizers, blocks of creamy tofu topped with bonito flakes, green onions, and a splash of soy sauce – simple, but delicious, and the tofu was very fresh.
Then it was the moment of truth. The finest potstickers in the world were placed in front of us. More delicate than a Chinese potsticker, I do tend to like gyoza better. These were light, with fine, delicate skins, and a simple, but tasty filling. Thrilling? No. The best I’ve had in my life? No. Amongst the better ones I’ve had in Buenos Aires? Yes. I did like the little dipping sauce provided – a blend of light soy and lemon juice – definitely more interesting than the usual plain, heavy soy accompaniment. They’re certainly on the right track here. We also tried a little miso soup which was quite good, though not particularly photogenic.
There used to be quite a few sushi bars in New York that offered nigiri sushi, or individual piece sushi, only in 2’s and 3’s. I never understood that. It was as if the sushi chef or the restaurant insisted that you were incapable of enjoying your fish in mixed variety, and wanted to limit your selection. Perhaps it’s a trifle less work to cut two or three slices from the same fish fillet than one slice each from three different ones. But at the prices charged for sushi in most restaurants in the world, they can, in my view, put in the moment’s extra effort. Here in Buenos Aires, every sushi bar I’ve been to is still locked into this mode. I haven’t found a single place that allows you to order less than two of an item, and often more. Fujisan is no exception, and carries it even further – most of the fish is listed as available in quantities from six to twelve pieces of THE SAME ITEM. Even the combination plates carry a minimum of two or three of each type. However, on inquiry, our waitress said we could order half-portions of any of the sushi items… even the rolls! (The latter makes no sense to me at all, unless they’re just making shorter rolls for those half plates.) So, we took a half portion of the salmon and white fish combination and then supplemented it with half portions of shrimp and octopus, and later tuna – which turned out to be tuna salad, not atún rojo, or red tuna, which they were out of. They were also out of the ikura, or salmon roe, which was a shame, it’s a favorite, and this is the first place I’ve seen it on a sushi menu in Buenos Aires.
I like the setting, though I wasn’t thrilled with the service. I like the food, though I didn’t find it exciting. There’s a branch of Dashi two blocks away from it that I haven’t tried, and my experience at the Dashi in Palermo viejo was definitely better, food-wise, than Fujisan. Still, it’s worth checking out if you’re in the neighborhood and want something non-Chinese. And that’s no exaggeration.