I was being served Japanese food in Australia by a Filipino chef who used to live in Cyprus.
To me, that's how food works universally, especially in Perth. Ask any Australian and they will be able to name you their favourite place for dim sum, kebabs or sushi.
Fuku restaurant did something very nice: they invited a couple of bloggers to have a meal at their establishment in exchange for a review. I was one of those they invited, and after getting over my disbelief, found myself standing in front of an intercom under their restaurant signage.
I pressed said intercom, heard some shuffling from behind the frosted glass door, it slid open and I was hit with two things: the sound of metal against griddle and a wall of sake bottles.
After meeting some of the staff, I realised I was early, and was informed that I would be dining from the 'Better' menu.
There are three menu options in Fuku, Good ($100), Better($135) and Best($220). The menu option chosen will then be prepared in front of you, with the main seafood and meat dishes prepared teppanyaki style.
The concept of Fuku is mainly Teppanyaki and Omakase. Teppanyaki is basically food being prepared on the griddle in front of you, it's basically dinner and a show. Teppanyaki styled food is not new to me, nor particularly interesting, so I would say my attitude towards it is very blasè.
Omakase means you are basically leaving it to the chef. This is my favourite concept of dining; having my meal prepared based on the chef's decisions - this means I am in the hands of a professional, who will no doubt pick me the best produce and create me a meal. I don't have to make decisions, and the food will be awesome. Awesome.
The photos above are the only ones you will see of the teppanyaki action; food was on my mind and watching it being prepared in front of me contributed to my anticipation of a good evening. (While on the topic, i apologise for the yellow tint in all my photos.) My chef of the night, Jaymon, did an excellent job at his station and was constantly engaging, expertly lighting an onion volcano, presenting food into heart-shapes, flipping his salt and pepper dispensers in the air.
The first course arrived, cameras were poised and the bloggers were too ready to tuck in.
Kawa ebi and sun-dried crispy nori sheet:
Our starter was a pile of Kawa ebi (river shrimp), fried whole on strips of nori (seaweed). The shrimp was crispy with a touch of salt, but I loved the nori. When we tucked in, all I heard was the sound of crunching seaweed.
I really liked the touch of sweetness on the nori, sweet and salty with a sprinkling of sesame seeds with a clever glaze on the nori before it was fried. Good beer food, as well, since our waiter was eagerly pouring sake and serving up alcohol for everyone.
Small morsels (Otsumami):
Otsumami, or sakana refers to the small dishes served in Japan, all of which pair well with alcohol. I do not take alcohol, but I enjoyed this nonetheless. Slices of beef, fish, octopus and tempura oyster and soba noodles.
There was no component on this dish I didn't enjoy. The beef was tender, pairing well with the accompanying sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked with a light sweet soy sauce, reminding me of Chinese styled sweet and sour sauce. The octopus was sweet and tasted like the sea; brine and sea salt. The delicate oyster in all its glory, fried in tempura batter with a ginger glaze, resting in its own shell on a bed of salt. A branch of buckwheat noodles, fried again in tempura batter till crispy, salty goodness, reminding me of the Mamee snack.
No component on this dish was overpowered or dwarfed, all in their own place with individual flavours.
A sashimi platter arrived soon after, with Sake (Tasmanian salmon), Maguro (tuna), Ebi (prawn), Ikura (salmon roe) and Tai (snapper) wrapped with kelp around pickled vegetables. This was good produce, but not spectacular sashimi. The sashimi was fresh, no doubt, but the prawn meat had lost its crunch and the slices of fish were too cold and wet, which bothers me as much eating sashimi off ice packs on a conveyor belt. I couldn't taste any fish in the roll, since the taste of ginger in the pickle overpowered any other flavour.
By no means was the sashimi bad, but it could be done better.
Quail in Soba crepe:
While we were all eating, the chef started grilling mushroom slices and quail on the station for this dish. Slices of quail and cucumber wrapped in a soba (buckwheat) crepe, with a sauce I cannot recall, and a beetroot jam of sorts.
This was delicious, and I found that I did not really need the two sauces. The mushroom slices retained their crunch, salty and pairing well with the quail. The quail, deliciously tender and smokey from the charcoal grill, highlighted with a crepe made from buckwheat flour, providing more bite to the crepe's taste yet still remaining delicate and complimenting as a delicious base for the quail.
Prawn, Scallop and crispy prawn head:
Our next dish brought us back to seafood, starting the teppanyaki portion of our evening. Jaymon expertly dissected the prawns, cooking them in bursts of flame and searing our scallops. My heart actually sank when I saw Jaymon flatten the prawn heads. As much as I know this makes it easier to eat and faster to cook I still felt disappointed when I saw them being flattened to every inch of their lives.
Our prawn, prawn head and scallop was served with a healthy amount of uni (sea urchin) butter, and I found that despite my previous worry the prawn head retained most of its goodness. The prawn was sweet and perfectly done with a slight crunch, the scallop was seared just on its surface so the rare middle was beautifully sweet and fresh. I could not taste the uni butter, since it was overpowered by the taste of soy sauce, which I felt was unnecessary when the seafood was already seasoned with salt.
Fish of the day:
We were then served the freshly cooked the fish of the day, a generous fillet of red emperor fish, lotus root and mushrooms with a rosemary yuzu (Japanese citrus) sauce.
I loved the fish. Wonderfully sweet meat, contrasting sharply with the tartness of a citrus sauce. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, somewhat between a mandarin orange, grapefruit and sour plum, more sour than sweet but more citrus than sour. Using it as a sauce it works well on fish meat, and I loved it.
I am still dreaming of that lovely fish. So good.
Wagyu sirloin steak, fried rice with Wagyu flavour:
Nowadays, when you mention the word Wagyu, you get a ripple of excitement from your audience. Wagyu has gained a reputation of being one of the world's very best. Australia has its own market for wagyu beef, and they are very proud of this, as they should be.
With this dish, our beef derived from the Mayura Station in South Australia, as a Grade 9+ quality wagyu beef. Jaymon again cooked, eliciting many happy murmurs when he took out the silver platter of intensely marbled beef steaks. I have had Japanese Wagyu beef before, and this was good meat. Jaymon served me my portion done medium rare, and as I expected it tasted beautiful, simply seasoned with soy sauce, pepper and crispy garlic, with a lingering flavour and softness unlike commercial beef. It was not as fatty as i expected, but it was simple, good beef, done right.
The fried rice reminded me of claypot rice, slightly chewy from being charred, hints of minced beef, caramelised garlic and soy. Jaymon charmed the audience as he cooked this, shaping the fried rice into a giant heart, making it 'beat', and tossing the eggs around before frying them up for the rice. Despite his antics, the fried rice turned out lovely, soft and delicious.
Chocolate drink, Yuzu Cheesecake and Mountain Peach:
We wrapped up dinner with our dessert, some hot chocolate, mountain peach, Yuzu cheesecake and wasabi (horse radish) cream.
I only know mountain peach in its preserved form, used in alcohol. It resembles a raspberry, but tastes like a more peach, but more tart, providing a contrast to the sweetness of the cheesecake. The cheesecake had a hint of yuzu, creamy and lovely without being overtly sweet. The wasabi cream was very interesting, sweet with the signature aftertaste and bite of wasabi. The chocolate drink was liquid gold, dark chocolate tasting like liqueur.
We finished up with some gen-mai cha, green tea mixed with roasted brown rice. I have a soft spot for this tea, as it doesn't taste as dry or as strong as green tea. The staff were attentive, always on standby to answer any questions or to engage conversation, with a very high knowledge of their menu and produce. The teppanyaki layout makes it easy for conversation while enjoying some good food, with almost every detail of the restaurant as Japanese as it can get - beautiful earthenware and cutlery, sanshin music, soft lights against walls of Japanese elements. (Ps: washrooms.)
As far as Japanese food in Perth, I really think Fuku will go far. Combining good Japanese cuisine with a very large variety of sake in a lovely setting is always a recipe for a good night out. Chances are you will never be ignored, or bored, or have to dine with a crying child in Fuku, and I also really enjoy the exclusive, intimate nature of the restaurant since it only seats 16 seat maximum.
I enjoyed my evening, and met some other food bloggers, all a pleasure to meet, all of whom seemed to enjoy the food as well. So thanks, Fuku restaurant, for the quality Japanese cuisine and the lovely experience.
Fuku can be located at:
20 Gylde Street,
(Reservations can be made online)