Come for sushi, stay for karaoke
Dining out » At Mount Fuji you can enjoy a bento box while being serenaded, but the hamachi kama steals the show.
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Not many places have a full sushi bar and a full-on karaoke stage, but Mount Fuji comes complete with both including songs in many languages besides English.

Japanese? Step right on up to the mike. Pilipino? Bring on the Tagalong crooning a la Manny Pacquiao.

When my hungry gang ventured to the Sandy sushi restaurant, the karaoke bar was merely an idea and not an actual activity. The crowd around us seemed perfectly entertained at the sushi bar or at their table with platters of sushi, bento boxes and bowls of udon.

The restaurant was not as crowded as I had anticipated. After the restaurant first opened, people told me the sushi was the best in the south valley and it was an excellent place to find Japanese food.

What we encountered wasn't quite the axiom of Japanese cuisine, but rather a neighborhood spot where the sushi is decent and in a few cases, quite good and a menu with enough cooked items to appease those still squeamish around raw fish.

Mount Fuji still feels and operates like a new restaurant -- at times shaky with service and trying to find its legs with the pacing between edamame ($3.85), steaming hot agedashi ($4.50) and the entrée of miso salmon ($12.95).

You muster patience with the smiling servers who, when probed, do their best to answer questions about things like the ramen ($8.50), a recent special. Diners get a choice of savory miso or shoyu (soy) base stock, with each bowl, the miso providing a bit more depth in flavor. With either choice, the crimped noodles unfurl softly around a fork or chopsticks and at times they were al dente and didn't turn to mush when I took a bite.

The Chasu ramen features thin slices of braised pork, which in many other restaurants features the neon red stain of Chinese barbecue pork. Fuji's is wonderfully different -- soft like a good Texas brisket, but much denser, a meaty contrast to the noodles and broth.

It's one of the few stand out dishes on the menu. Which isn't to say the majority of the dishes are bad, they simply weren't memorable. And when memorable isn't a priority and you're wanting a quick midday meal, a generously portioned Utah Dinner Box Deluxe ($12.95) is just fine. It contains chicken teriyaki, a California roll, house salad and gyoza (served with miso).

The building was home to several restaurants before Mount Fuji set up shop. This may or may not be an ominous sign, but for the most part, the current occupants have done well with the architectural bones of the place. They mercifully spare diners from a Japanese-kitsch and instead keep the space minimal, clean and painted in deeper earth tones. Booths outline the room, the sushi bar presides on one side. In between are a dearth of tables that are too often empty. On a weekend nights there is live music.

Mount Fuji features regular specials, the best one is a Happy Hour offer where selected appetizers, sushi and rolls are 50 percent off.

If one of those rolls happens to be the Scorpion Roll ($12.50) you're in for a screaming deal. I'm normally not one for the fried components in rolls. But fried soft shell crab, shrimp tempura, ribbons of salmon and avocado make for a stunning presentation. The crunchy texture and fattiness also went well with a glass of Asahi beer ($8.25).

The fried gyoza ($4.25) is flavorful and crunchy enough to make you temporarily forget that you prefer the pan-fried version.

And then there's the hamachi kama ($7.75) appetizer. The staccatoed Japanese syllables are lovelier than the menu's English translation. Indeed, these are the jaws of yellowtail fish. But the descriptor informs diners that these are the most succulent part of the animal. Baked with soy and vegetables, it's simple but hearty.

Even without live music or a karaoke stage, it stole the show.

E-mail Vanessa Chang at food@sltrib.com.

HH

Mount Fuji Sushi Bar and Japanese Cuisine

Food » HH

Mood » HH

Service » HH

Noise » bb

One of the few places that feature both a full sushi bar and a karaoke stage. Locals come for the food including the standard roster of rolls. The crunchy Scorpion stands out. So does the appetizer called Hamachi kama or baked yellowtail jaw, which is tender, savory and sweet. Ramen with pork is excellent.

Location » 8650 S. 1300 East, Sandy; 801-432-8962

Online » www.mtfujislc.com

Hours » Monday to Thursday Noon to 2 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m.; Friday to Saturday Noon to 2 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m.

Children's menu » No

Prices » $$

Liquor » Beer and wine

Corkage » $7

Reservations » Yes

Takeout » Yes

Wheelchair access » Yes

Outdoor dining » Yes

On-site parking » Yes

Credit cards » Yes