Nothing will put a wrench in Friday night dinner plans quite like a toddler will. So, when my wife’s parents said they were itching to get some alone time with my little hellion—oh, excuse me—I mean, their little angel, we jumped on the opportunity for a much-needed date night. We packed up the minion, dropped her off with Grammy and Jiichan, and headed into McCully to try the favorite restaurant of Jacqui’s friend Kori: Fujiyama Texas Kushikatsu Izakaya. But this isn’t just your everyday Japanese restaurant. No, no. Fujiyama Texas’ specialty is kushikatsu, a very popular style of food in Japan that has been around for nearly 100 years. Kushi refers to the skewer, and katsu means it’s panko breaded and deep fried. That’s right, my friends, 90% of the menu is golden fried and stuck on a stick—a concept that nearly every red-blooded American can get behind.
As we walked in the door the first thing we noticed was the bar. This is important to note because Fujiyama Texas is an izakaya (pronounced ee-ZAH-kah-yah), a Japanese pub. Everything on the menu at its core is meant to be enjoyed with a cold beer or some kind of sake—and they have a wide variety of both! I honestly don’t understand how I never knew about this before and how we don’t have kushikatsu izakaya all over the Midwest.
I may not drink anymore, but I most definitely eat! And with that in mind, I set out to try as much as I could. There were 2 menus: the regular menu and additional special items. Both were extensive. One item in particular on the specials menu stood out: jellyfish. I’ve never in my life had the chance to try jellyfish; I’ve never seen it on a menu. I thought to myself, I should seize the moment, but it’s kind of a strange thing to order, so I took the temperature of the group. I mentioned out loud that I think I might try the jellyfish and I was immediately greeted with laughter, so I began to rethink my choice. Slowly, I start to think maybe I won’t, there may be another chance. But, my wife, being the trooper she is says no, of course we have to try it. And I’m glad I did! Initially, it presents with a soft texture, but as you begin to chew it is crunchy. Flavor wise the dish has a distinct sesame oil flavor with some spice. Think the consistency of ika (squid) with the familiar flavor of taegu (a Korean style seasoned codfish side dish found locally)—in other words, it’s yummy.
From there it was time for the main event. To order there are order sheets just like in many sushi restaurants where you select your items. The main menu offers a wide variety of meats, seafoods, and extra vegetables, all fried and skewered. For meats you have choices such as prime rib, pork belly, (Canadian) bacon, and more. Some seafood options include shrimps, crab, scallops, and fish meatballs. For vegetables there were onions, mushrooms, lotus root, and garlic. There were also dumplings, mochi (Japanese sticky rice cake), and cheese! My wife jokingly said we ordered the “left side of the menu”… which is actually pretty accurate.
The experience also included a variety of sauces and seasonings: on the table we found the traditional thick and sweet katsu sauce, a thinner kushi katsu version, ponzu (citrus shoyu), togarashi (dried spice mix), as well as table salt. When they delivered our deep-fried tasty morsels, the server made sure to point out which sauces and seasonings paired best with which item. I found these to be great suggestions, but as a group we mixed and matched.
What was TOO good?
All the meats were good with the chicken being the biggest surprise. I find it’s rare to find fried chicken breast that is still tender, but our skewer was perfect. The Canadian bacon was unique and I’d definitely do it again. Jacqui and I battled for the pork belly.
The vegetables were a delicious highlight for me. I actually enjoyed the lotus root quite a bit. The potato was excellent, as well. The garlic was a wild and unexpected experience as it was crispy fried with a strong flavor but smooth in the center making for a really unique bite.
The seafood was also well prepared. Despite my love for scallops, they were actually my least favorite. I don’t think frying them adds to their flavor. I’m assuming my wife loved both the octopus and the squid legs since I know we ordered them but I don’t remember her letting me try them.
Very special mention goes out to the kim chee croquette. I’m not the biggest fan of kim chee—I enjoy it in many settings, but not in everything or all the time. But the kim chee croquette was special and absolutely delicious. Japanese croquettes are breaded and fried discs of flavored mashed potatoes and these are flavored with actual kim chee—not just the juice. Between the crunchy outside, creamy potato center, umami of the kim chee, and the crunch of the cabbage it really made for a great bite.
Also, don’t sleep on the desserts. I had the fried Twinkies—because I’m from the Midwest and why not? The Twinkie was an amazing guilty pleasure and not much else can be said for it other than it was delicious. We also tried the fried apples with caramel sauce and ice cream. The apples were thinly sliced, lightly breaded, and fried, then drizzled with a sweet caramel sauce and topped off with creamy ice cream. These, too, were delicious, but I could do without the skin on the apple slice (but that’s a personal preference).
My favorite of the desserts we tried was the yuzu sorbet. Yuzu, or citrus juno, is a citrus fruit with a flavor that seems like a cross between a tangerine, lemon, lime, and grapefruit—this was the best we came up with to describe the flavor after an in depth discussion at the table.I found it to be the perfect cap on the meal. The sorbet was sweet and tart, and it was the perfect cold palette cleanser after a heavier meal.
The main takeaway for me besides the fun of the evening (and it was fun!) was that despite all the fried food, we didn’t feel overly heavy or weighed down. Jacqui and I actually marveled at this on the drive home. All in all, we all had a great time and I absolutely plan on doing it again
Where can you Try Ono Oahu?
Fujiyama Texas is located at 2065 S King St in the McCully area. We went earlier in the evening (around 6pm) so we were able to find parking in the lot in front of the restaurant. There is, however, street parking in the area, as well as valet parking later in the evening. To access the valet parking, you need to come through the west side parking lot entrance (next to Any Place bar).
Keep in mind that King St is one way so if you miss the turn you have to go all the way back around and some of the streets can be pretty tiny in this area of Oahu, so, you want to watch where you’re turning into. My first time driving in this area my wife inadvertently put me (and my Titan) down what she called a street but was an alley at best.
If you are going with a larger party, you may want to call ahead for reservations since it is on the smaller side. When we went there was only 1 other party there so there was plenty of seating available.
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