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Posted July 8, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Going Japanese: New eatery offers authentic cuisine

Marcus Doe, manager of Yama Fuji
Marcus Doe, manager of Yama Fuji, prepares a plate of sushi. Dennis Grundman/Daily

California rolls
California rolls are among the items on the menu at the new Front Royal restaurant, Yama Fuji. Dennis Grundman/Daily

full sushi bar
The restaurant features a full sushi bar. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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By Linwood Outlaw III -- loutlaw@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Fairfax resident Minho Kim says he and his wife's Japanese restaurant, Momoyama, has blossomed into a popular dining area in Washington since they opened the business in 2004. Some critic reviews and online blogs seem to agree.

Kim, a chef who has more than 20 years of culinary experience, hopes he can duplicate that success with its sister restaurant, Yama Fuji, which opened in Front Royal about two months ago.

The grand opening for Kim's newest restaurant, at 241 Chester St., was held in early May.

Although there are several Chinese restaurants in the immediate area, Yama Fuji is the only Japanese restaurant in the downtown area. The only other restaurant of its kind is the Mikado Japanese Steak and Seafood House located across the North Fork Bridge in the Riverton Commons shopping center.

It's apparent to Kim that authentic Japanese cuisine is in high demand.

"[Kim] would like to expand the Japanese food [offerings] in the area. ... He believes he can convince people to try new sushi or [other] Japanese foods," says 31-year-old Yama Fuji manager Marcus Doe.

The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Sundays, and it stays open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Hibachi grills are installed throughout the 4,700 square-foot restaurant, but they likely won't be used until the winter months. A sushi bar is at the center of the restaurant, and its walls are decorated with Japanese portraits. Patrons can eat their meals with either chopsticks or traditional American utensils. On a busy night, the restaurant can seat as many as 50 people.

So far, Kim says, business has been a little slow, with the restaurant seeing its most customers during dinner hours. Sometimes, Kim says, Japanese food tends to be a more popular choice among residents in larger localities, like Washington, but he is confident business at his Front Royal establishment will pick up soon. Yama Fuji serves a variety of Japanese-style dishes, ranging from a shrimp-and-crab dumpling Shumai soup to Ika Sansai, a marinated squid and vegetable salad.

In addition to its assorted sushi and salads, Yama Fuji also offers Donburi meals such as Tekkadon, made of tuna sashimi over sushi rice, and Bulgogidon, which is beef with special sauce served over steamed rice. Tempura, a popular Japanese dish made of deep-fried battered meats, seafood or vegetables, and Udon, a type of wheat-flour noodle usually served with a hot soup, also top the menu.

A lunch and dinner option the restaurant is offering to help new customers ease into trying Japanese food, Doe says, are Yama Fuji boxes. The Sashimi box, for example, has six pieces of sashimi seafood, chicken teriyaki, rice, edamame and five pieces of tempura. Veggie, roll, salmon, bulgogi and eel boxes are also available. Lunch boxes are sold for $9.95, and dinner boxes cost $12.95.

Kim says the restaurant is not only geared toward adults, but also the entire family, as it also prepares meals for children and offers green tea, red bean, mochi and tempura ice cream desserts. "The young generation, they like to eat raw fish, too," Kim says.

Yama Fuji chefs do not use any monosodium glutamate while preparing dishes. If cooked properly, Japanese foods can have some health benefits, Doe says. "Chinese food generally uses a lot of oil. The sushi itself, there's no fat in there. It helps [improve] the blood circulation," Doe said.

To help enhance Yama Fuji's reputation in the community, and boost an overall interest in Japanese food, Doe and Kim will be teaching sushi cooking courses at the Around Your Kitchen home chef store at 126 E. Main St. on Aug. 2, Sept. 13 and Oct. 11. The courses are $35 each, Doe says.

Opening a new restaurant in the midst of an ailing economy is a challenge, but Doe and Kim are confident Yama Fuji will become a big hit in Front Royal.

"Every week we're increasing [the number of our customers]. More people are coming in. They're friends or family members come here," Doe says.

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