Residents of Liberty Lake have been waiting a very long time for some choice in dining beside pizza; which currently makes up about 30% of the restaurant options. With fast food accounting for another 30%, Liberty Lake is hungry for something different.
Construction of Fujiyama began over a year ago and the community was excited. “When are they going to open”, was a common question asked in local community forums. Starting to doubt if they would ever open, there was a collective sigh of relief when the banners went up indicating opening day would be Monday, July 9, 2018, at 11:00 am.
Fujiyama labels itself as a Japanese steakhouse and it is, but I would add that it is a teppanyaki-style Japanese steakhouse. Teppanyaki is when the food is prepared in front of the guest by cooking on a solid griddle by a teppan chef.
Ok, enough with the intro and background. What everyone is interested to know is about the menu, service, atmosphere, and food. My wife and I were able to attend the soft opening on Friday and here is what we experienced.
The menu is similar to most teppan-style restaurants. It consists of the usual choices: vegetables, chicken, steaks, seafood, and rice. Some Japanese steak houses also offer sushi. Fujiyama Liberty Lake does not have a sushi bar. They did have a full-service bar, but I failed to notice the beer, wine, other liquor options.
Next time I run across the management at Fujiyama, I would like to inquire about why they list items on their website menu as “hibachi” when I did not notice a hibachi-style grill. It seems to be all teppan-style. Maybe I am confused about the definition, but here is how I understand it.
The pricing is also consistent with other Japanese steakhouses. If ordering drinks, expect to spend around $50 per person.
We had reservations and were promptly greeted and seated with only a minor wait. The server was friendly and the teppan chef was very entertaining. It was obvious that the servers were still learning the systems and processes, but that is to be expected during a soft opening.
There was some confusion about how to accommodate my crazy food allergies. Our chef, named Crane, quickly recognized that my plate was empty and educated our server on how to proceed.
They all had a great attitude, so I expect they will have it worked out by opening week.
The restaurant and lounge were comfortable and clean. This is to be expected on the first day. The noise level with a half-full house was also comfortable. Our chef spoke softly and was difficult to hear sometimes, but we might just be getting old. A friend commented that it was a little too bright in the lounge for evening drinks.
It felt as it should; like a Japanese steakhouse.
Let me start with my wife, Cherise, since she is an able-stomached individual. Then, I will discuss from a gastricly-challenge perspective.
Cherise ordered the lobster, scallops, and steak which came with fried rice, vegetables, onion soup, and salad. The soup and salad were served in the traditional small bowl and the dressing was a house ginger. She commented that both were good and the steak cooked to the requested temperature. The portions sizes for the main dish were very generous; compounded by the addition of chicken to the fried rice and a couple pieces of shrimp. It was more than enough food for one. Cherise really enjoyed all parts of the meal; labeling it as “excellent”.
I ordered the filet cooked medium and requested that my meal be prepared gluten-free. The steak also included fried rice, soup, and salad. I was unable to taste the soup as I am allergic to onions and didn’t try the salad since I wasn’t sure if it included dairy. Most likely they would have provided a substitute for me but I didn’t think our server deserved that much abuse on her first day. Next time, I will know to ask for edamame or something like that as a side dish.
When it was time for the main event, where the chef begins cooking the meat and rice I noticed he generously squirted soy sauce (not GF) on all the food. So, as he began serving it around the table I politely declined. After seeing my plate empty for a bit, he instructed the server to have the kitchen prepare my meal.
The steak, shrimp, rice, and vegetables were nicely prepared and presented with quality ingredients. However, I would not label it excellent; as it was a bit bland. It had been prepared without butter, soy sauce, or seasonings. I appreciated the special effort and lower calories but would hope that they offer gluten-free soy sauce in the future or at least salt and pepper. Again, I didn’t ask as I had already been enough of a pain.
There was something else which made the gluten-free version just fair, which was pointed out by a friend after he had finished his dish. The food was a little a sterile. Unfortunately, that is just a side-effect of being a new restaurant. Once they prepare more meals the pans and griddles will get seasoned; adding a depth to the flavor.
How does it compare to Ding How?
People have asked me how the food compares to a local favorite, Ding How. Answering this question is like asking if The Post or Toy Story is a better movie. Both are movies and both star Tom Hanks, but they are completely different genres with different audiences in mind. They shouldn’t be compared.
Both Ding How and Fujiyama are restaurants in Liberty Lake and serve Japanese dishes. Ding How serves many types of Asian dishes from China, Thailand, and Japan. Fujiyama is a Japanese steakhouse with a completely different menu. They shouldn’t be compared.
My wife and I enjoyed the teppan experience, the lounge, the food, and the people. We will definitely return. However, we plan to avoid the main dining room, due to my dietary issues, and dine in the lounge; ordering food directly from the kitchen.
We recommend giving it a try and would love to hear what you think.
Fujiyama Japanese Steak House & Bar
General Website: http://www.fujiyamawa.com
Liberty Lake Location FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/Fujiyama-Japanese-Steak-House-in-Liberty-Lake-360464040985987/
Address: 21801 E Country Vista Dr, Liberty Lake, Washington 99019