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Cheap Eats

Japanese with a flair

Email|Print| Text size + By Bella English, Globe Staff
June 30, 2005

You know you're doing a good job when your old customers follow you to a new place. Fuji 1546 -- so named because it's at 1546 Hancock St. in Quincy Center -- moved its operation a mile or so down the street from its previous digs seven months ago and has been busy ever since. The old place, Fuji, is still there, and run by new owners. The new place is run by Fuji's previous owners, Jimmy Lliang and Peter Tse, friends since their days at North Quincy High, who know both food and construction.

Their own design and construction company renovated the space, previously occupied by an insurance company, into a 4,000-square-foot, 112-seat restaurant with a long, sleek bar up front and a dining area with sushi bar in the back. The walls are blue and green and orange, with hanging lights and blond furniture, giving the place a contemporary feel. There's a huge TV screen, the better to watch the Red Sox. And for extreme Sox fans, there are mini TVs recessed inside the bathroom mirrors, so you can watch while you wash your hands.

But it's the food that counts here, and the partners have tweaked their old menu to include creative offerings without forgetting that they're in Quincy, not downtown Boston. "People like basic Japanese food, and we're also trying to offer Japanese food with a flair," says Lliang, who is active in Quincy's growing Asian community.

Start with the kani shumai ($4), meaty crabmeat dumplings that arrive steaming hot, served with a side of mustard sauce. They're crisp and light. Ditto for the ebiten ($6.50), gently fried shrimp with a side of spicy soy sauce. The spicy tuna maki ($5) passed a true taste test; every piece was devoured by a teen at our table who was reluctantly trying her first sushi. ("It's our biggest seller ever," says Lliang. "More than Budweiser.") For a more sophisticated take on the dish, try the new spicy tuna roll ($10): the tuna surrounded with lettuce, asparagus, and thin noodles wrapped in rice paper. The tuna tataki ($9.50) is seared, thinly sliced bluefin accompanied by cucumber slices and seaweed. Wrap it all up together and dip it in the homemade ponzu sauce, a citrus soy sauce. The fish melts in your mouth.

If you're tired of miso, the Japanese standby soup, try the chawanmushi ($5), an egg custard soup that is hard to get right; it often ends up lumpy. Here, though, it's smooth, and at the bottom of the bowl you'll find chunks of seafood and vegetables.

The sushi and sashimi here reveal the freshest, top-quality fish. You can order appetizer sizes or entrees. For the latter, try the hamachi sashimi ($12), which includes several pieces of velvety yellowtail tuna, or the maguro sashimi ($12), which is unadorned, flavorful tuna. Lliang and Tse, both sushi chefs with 25 years of experience between them, trained two others: Ming Cao and Tommy Li, who turn out works of edible art, beautifully presented and accompanied with various sauces to complement the fish's flavors.

We loved the hokkai yaki maki ($6.50), a spicy scallop mixture -- the significant heat comes from a seven-spice powder -- served gunkan style, or wrapped in nori seaweed. It's a pretty dish, adorned with squiggles of wasabi. Try the caterpillar maki ($8.50), rolled sushi with eel and cucumber and avocado on top, fashioned to look like the insect, including squid bits for the eyes. Perhaps our favorite of all was the spicy tempura maki katsu style ($10): sushi that contained lightly breaded shrimp, which added a nice crunch, along with spicy mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, cucumber, avocado, and flying fish roe. The mix of fish and veggies makes a nice summer dish.

For those who don't like sushi, there are plenty of other choices, including ebi tempura ($13.50): fried shrimp and vegetables in a light batter, which comes with rice, soup, and salad. There are plenty of teriyaki dishes, such as the sake teriyaki ($12), perfectly grilled salmon in a teriyaki glaze instead of sauce. And don't leave without sampling a buckwheat noodle dish: Hot or cold soba, or the thicker udon noodle, all $9. The tempura version is hot and comes with shrimp tempura. The tenzaru version is a cold noodle, saturated with soy sauce, and served with a side dish of shrimp tempura. Scallions and a few peppers are scattered throughout.

Lunchtime offers various sushi and tempura specials, along with bento boxes, which offer a little sample of various items.

Dessert here is limited to ice creams made by Christina's in Cambridge: Ginger, red bean, mango, green tea, sesame, and the like, all $2.50. Fried ice cream, one of my favorite oxymorons, is not on the menu, but they'll make it for you.

Lliang is into fun as well as food and has come up with several specials. Every day from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., sushi is a dollar a piece. Karaoke is every Tuesday night, and there's a DJ every other Wednesday. The waitstaff, reflecting the clientele, is half Asian, half Caucasian, and is very helpful with an extensive menu, much of which is difficult to negotiate if you're not familiar with sushi and sashimi terms.

Or you can always holler for Lliang -- he's the one in the baseball cap.

FUJI 1546

Cuisine: Asian

Address: 1546 Hancock St., Quincy

Phone: 617-617-1546

Hours: Daily 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

Prices: $2.50-$22

Comments: Reservations.

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