‘My favorite “Nope-I-Don’t-Eat-Sushi” Sushi Place’
I was in the Liquor Store Next To The IGA the other day, looking for my bourbon—”Hey, where’s Jim? Are you out of Jim?”—when Maureen Who Works There, after directing me to the spot on the shelf where Jim Beam now resides—”You moved Jim?”—remarked that she had recently been to Zakura.
“Zakura?” I asked, thinking this must be some sort of Buddhist retreat or something. “What’s Zakura?” “You know,” she said. “The sushi place.”
“Oh! You mean Mt. Fuji.” Another customer in the place nodded along, “Yup, she means Mt. Fuji.”
Maureen was actually right; the sign outside this place does indeed say “Zakura,” and has for fifteen years or so. But, before that—ages before that—it was called Mt. Fuji. And that’s what everybody who goes there still calls it, “Zakura” sign be darned.
Now, Zakura/Mt. Fuji may not be the best sushi restaurant around—or maybe even the better of our family’s two fabled sushi haunts. The late, lamented Shabu Shabu, the very restaurant where The Dude and I had our first date (and where I polished off a plate of sashimi for the first—and only—time in order to impress him) was probably better. (He said he loved sashimi, so by gum I was gonna order sashimi, not actually realizing that I was about to be confronted with a whole platter of raw fish without even any rice or little wrappers to kind of mitigate it.)
Well, “Mt. Fuji” is still in business, though takeout only these days. But Maureen said it was pretty good so we’ll probably give it a shot. You know, to help things keep going—though it won’t be the same till we can sit there by the fish tanks and order up some gold flake saki.
But just talking about Mt. Fuji, though, unleashed a whole passel of pre-pandemic memories.
In the Before Times, we would go there almost every Sunday night. His Dudeness—and eventually, when she got older, The Child—would polish off huge platters of sushi and/or sashimi. When she was little, Her Childness would order the same thing each and every time: beef teriyaki with no sauce, white rice on the side. The staff knew her—and her order—so well, they would have it in the works before we even sat down. And you who’ve had little kids know how important it is to get them their food—and fast.
Speaking of getting food into hungry children fast, sometimes, on our drive out to Amagansett from New York City, which can take anywhere from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours, I kid you not, we would have to stop at Mt. Fuji’s Southhampton outpost (still called Mt. Fuji) in order to tank up. There too they would have that beef teriyaki in the making before we even scored a booth.
Mt. Fuji is a real locals’ place—hence my spotting of Maureen Who Works at the Liquor Store there on more than one occasion. You will find no glitzy entourage-encumbered Hamptonites within, even though the place has gone through three or four attempts to gussy it up. It had a fireplace when we first started going there. Then the rustic interior was scrapped for a minimalistic vibe, which eventually made way for rows of tropical fish tanks. Which I like a lot, though it’s somewhat disconcerting to watch people eating raw fish next to live fish—just think what it’s like for the fish.
In fact, locals frequent the place so much that the entire menu of rolls is named after the “regulars.” There’s the Ted Roll, the Roger Roll, the Sam Roll. By golly, I bet there’s even a Maureen Roll.
I doubt if I’ll ever get a roll named after me, “regular” though I am, since I never order rolls—or even sushi, for that matter. I’m strictly a chicken yakitori and steamed shumai girl. Sometimes, if I’m feeling wild, I’ll get an inside-out California Roll. Yes, for a person who lists a sushi restaurant as one of her faves, I don’t like sushi. But I do like everything else about Mt. Fuji/Zakura. Including the fact that one time I asked them if they had a raw egg I could take home.
And you betcha, like any wonderful local hangout, they were happy to oblige.
New York City. January 2021