by Aaron Kiel
Spicy octopus, gyoza (fried dumplings), squid, tempura, yakitori (chicken on skewers) and sashimi (sliced raw fish), are just a few of the dishes served at Fukuya Sushi Bar in La Verne, where quality food, friendly service and affordable dining make for an exotic lunch or dinner.
“There’s a lot of cultural foods that are totally different. That’s what attracts people to it. Anybody can go to the corner and buy a Big Mac or Whopper,” said Ted Sakata, manager and sushi chef at Fukuya.
From the sushi bar, one can try assorted cut rolls, sashimi and hand rolls. Hand rolls are rice, fish and vegetables rolled in seaweed like an ice cream cone, while a cut roll is the more popular version of sushi in America-the sushi is rolled tightly with bamboo and cut into slices.
Fukuya’s variety of sushi includes mackerel, which is a little oily and leaves a fishy aftertaste, scallops, salmon, yellowtail, crab, shrimp and tuna.
The tuna, which is a deep red, is recommended for those who have never tried sushi before. Tuna is soft, not rubbery like octopus, and does not leave an aftertaste like mackerel.
For those who are a little squeamish about eating sushi, the California roll-filled with crab, avocado and cucumber-is the best way to experience a sushi bar without the raw fish.
After each serving of sushi, pickled ginger is traditionally used to clean the palate before trying the next item.
A green paste called wasabi, or Japanese horseradish, is used for dipping. It is best to mix only a small amount of wasabi with some shoyu, or soy sauce, to sample its strong flavor.
Sakata, who has been training in sushi preparation for three years, said raw fish is an aphrodisiac.
“I joke around with customers. Especially when they are on their first date or something. I’ll joke around and say, ‘Be careful. We’re not held responsible for anything that happens outside of the store,'” said Sakata about the aphrodisiac myth.
While the sushi at Fukuya is tasty and the food is presented in a colorful manner with broccoli, strawberries and lemon as garnish, the best dish – which is entirely cooked – is called Dynamite, consisting of scallops, mushrooms and onions sauteed with garlic and pepper, stuffed in an oyster shell and smothered with spicy mayonnaise and fish eggs. This is the house specialty and one should not pass it up.
Chicken and beef entrées are also available, like the teriyaki yakitori and beef, Japanese fried chicken-that tastes and looks like buffalo wings-fried dumplings and shrimp tempura (the tempura dipping sauce is highly recommended).
La Verne resident George Stone has been eating at Fukuya for five of the six years the restaurant has been owned by Shin Murkama.
“These guys have pride in their food. I have never had bad fish here. It is always good,” said Stone, who enjoys visiting with the Itamae-San, or sushi chef, at one of the stools at the bar.
“You make a lot of friends at a sushi bar,” said Stone.
Fukuya is a friendly restaurant where the employees are willing to teach new customers about sushi.
Sakata said it is his job to know what tastes people like and what they do not like when eating sushi.
“You can tell by the person’s expression,” said Sakata.
Prices range from $5.95 and up, but the best deal is on Sundays and Mondays from 5-9 p.m. for all-you-can-eat and drink. The cost is $25 and guests can drink all the saki, beer and wine they wish for up to 90 minutes, plus sample different sushi and kitchen items.
The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch and 5-9 p.m. for dinner and seats 38 people. Reservations are not required.
Fukuya is located in the Stater Bros. shopping center at 2084-C Foothill Blvd, on the corner of Foothill and “D” Street.