It was something amazing when Fuku’s front door slid open to reveal a beautiful room fitted with a spectacular floor to ceiling cupboard of giant sake bottles, dark hardwood dining bench and floors and the stained glass feature wall. The amber lighting glazed my vision, making everything appear gilded and rich. The space felt like a cocoon of luxury, there were no windows to the outside world. I felt like it was just me, my date and abounded luxury. It was such a glorious feast for the eyes, and I smiled, expecting a memorable night ahead. And Fuku did provide a memorable night, for both good and bad reasons.
Fuku Omakase and Teppanyaki is relatively new on the dining scene block, after having opened at just the end of last year. Found in Mosman Park, it boasts the quirkiest method of indicating whether or not walk-ins are available: a glowing lantern above the entrance equates to “vacancies available”, if not, one may consider heading next door to Tsunami for fine Japanese fare. I heard that walk-ins would not receive the full Fuku experience and that they would be escorted next door to Tsunami to enjoy dessert. It was a special night, a late birthday celebration, so I decided that I would go all out on Fuku’s “Better” menu – an eight-course meal that features a variety of seafood dishes and delicious 9+ grade wagyu steak. I really couldn’t turn it down.
The door to Fuku opens only from the inside, and you signal your arrival with a press of the doorbell. After hearing about this feature, I was excited to try it myself but unfortunately another couple had arrived just before us, and the door was still open as the waiter was still receiving them at the doorway. We were promptly seated and I was glad that we scored what were arguably two of the best seats in the house, right in front of the grill plate. As I admired my surroundings, our friendly waiter poured our requested sparkling water for us, it was served from San Pellegrino’s classic green bottle. I was surprised that the free bottled water promised to us was of the imported Italian kind, but I definitely wasn’t complaining.
The menus seem to be set up so that there is a multitude of small dishes, with the first few dishes appearing to be more like entrees, followed by a couple of more substantial dishes and then, finally, a single dessert dish. With the “Better” menu, our first dish was the deliciously crunchy deep fried nori and crispy prawns (or kawa ebi, as stated on the menu). I tried very hard to savour each and every crack and crunch and I was so disappointed when I reached the bottom of my little box. I would go back just for that little box of heaven.
For our second dish, we were served a trio of otsunami or small morsels. I generally prefer my oysters fresh with just a bit of lemon juice but the tempura oyster was delicious and the mouthful of salad was wonderful. The star of the dish was undeniably the slivers of wagyu beef with white sesame sauce. The meat was tender and melted in my mouth and the sauce was so rich with flavour! Some may find the sauce a bit salty but I found that it struck the perfect balance between tasty and overpowering.
Next on the menu was the assortment of sashimi. Beautifully plated, it was both a delight and a struggle to dig into. But the freshness of the dish helped me overcome that little obstacle. Fourth on the menu was the quail wrapped in a buckwheat pancake served on a bed of mushrooms with a beetroot relish. It reminded me of the Chinese duck rolls and when the plate was placed in front of me, I couldn’t wait to tuck in. It was a little bit difficult to eat without using my hands but I managed with my chopsticks. The only concern I found was that I found the dish a bit bland, with not enough sauce to moisten the dish.
For the next dish, as the chef was dismantling the head from the prawn and drizzling oil over it, he looked up as us and asked if we had ever tried crispy prawn chips before. I laughed and joked that the only ones I had ever tried were the prawn puffs one found at a Chinese restaurant. And I have to say this, I have never tried anything so wonderful. The salty, crispy prawn heads were packed full with flavour and, yet again, I was left cold and lonely when I swallowed the last crumb of the prawn chips. The scallop in the dish was cooked to perfection.
The fish of the day, the first of the more substantial dishes, was the swordfish served on a banana leaf. My eyes lit up when I saw the chef pull out the blow torch to glaze the fish with a crispy finish. It wasn’t my favourite dish of the night, the fish was a bit dry for my taste and there wasn’t enough sauce to make up for this. At this point, the service began to become a bit choppy as the restaurant filled up and the waiters got busy and couldn’t serve us the dishes, instead, the chef was forced to drop our plates on the raised bench at the front of our table after which we had to take the dishes down ourselves. And at times, the other cooks would drop the plates in front of us with a clunk, even though the waiter was right there reaching for the plate. It seems like a small thing to pick on but the service should have been more consistent in this respect. It’s also a bit sad seeing the waiter get shot down for trying to serve dishes in a proper manner.
The last savoury dish of the night was the most fun to watch get cooked as the chef juggled eggs and made the famous “volcano”. Although I felt like my eyebrows might have been singed from sitting too close to the spectacular fire, I was so glad that were placed at those seats. When the wagyu beef cubes and the fried rice was placed at our bench, I was so delighted with the show and as much as my very full belly screamed no, my tastebuds were screaming yes. My medium-rare steak was beautifully cooked and melted like butter in my mouth. The fried rice was equally as delicious and is possibly one of the best fried rice dishes I have ever eaten (sorry, mum).
It was just after we cleared our plates of the wagyu beef and the fried rice when our waiter came over to us and asked if we would mind walking over to Tsunami to enjoy our dessert. I consider myself to be quite a reasonable person and still feeling the buzz from a thoroughly enjoyable time and delicious food, I agreed to forfeit my optimally placed seat in the restaurant to the next diner with a reservation. The waiter said something about giving us some tea and coffee as consolation as one of the Tsunami waiters escorted us out of Fuku’s golden door, into the dark cold street, though the less impressive (but still beautiful) Tsunami restaurant and into its courtyard. That minute-long walk from the golden interiors of Fuku and into the cold wintery night made me feel more and more stupid as the seconds ticked by. I really could not believe my stupidity.
I had heard about the walk-ins being treated as such and had made a reservation so that we could enjoy our entire meal in peace. Having paid twice as much ($135pp) for the “Better” menu, the reality of being kicked out and making way for another set of diners kicked in and infuriated me. Was our money of lesser value than others? Did we not deserve and have the right to sit in the restaurant that we had paid for? I really was appalled. The dessert took a further thirty minutes to arrive and although I tried to enjoy the cheesecake and chocolate drink, the sour taste in mouth from having been taken advantaged of prohibited this. Nothing was given in consolation as the waiter from Fuku suggested. And, having not known the policy at Fuku, the Tsunami waiter tried to charge us for the bottled water.
En conclusion, despite the stellar dishes being brought to us throughout the night, I could not properly enjoy my dessert because of the mistreatment that we were forced to undergo at the very end. If Fuku wants to establish itself as a fine dining restaurant, it has to pull its socks up and understand that good service includes treating every single customer equally with respect. If we were taking too long to finish our meal, the next set of customers could have easily been accommodated for. A word of advice: waiting ten or fifteen minutes to be seated is a lot more forgivable than being requested to leave and “enjoy” one’s dessert elsewhere, and in this case, in the cold.