2930 Capital Mall Drive, Olympia

Origami, cloisonné, calligraphy, flower arranging and silk weaving—all are art forms associated with Japanese culture. From sushi making to the tea ceremony to hibachi cooking, Japanese food preparation is also an art. Originally known as teppanyaki, (teppan meaning “steel grill” and yaki meaning “broiled”), the art of hibachi cooking goes back over two hundred years.

Olympia’s Fujiyama Japanese Steak House specializes in hibachi style cooking and the tableside chefs are true artisans. They are proficient not only in food preparation, but in knife skills, showmanship and audience interaction.

Our dining experience began with a Plumtini and an Icetini, two Fujiyama house drinks. As the names suggest, the refreshing libations are flavored with smooth plum wine and sweet ice wine. Sake and Japanese beer are also available.

We shared two appetizers. The seaweed salad was composed of Japanese crunchy seaweed, tender agar-agar and tree mushrooms tossed in a sesame vinaigrette. Grilled mussels were served on the half shell in a spicy mayonnaise-based sauce. More conventional offerings include grilled beef or chicken skewers, gyoza and tempura.

Fujiyama’s hibachi dinners are made up of six courses. In addition to the entrée, meals include onion soup, house salad, a shrimp appetizer, hibachi vegetable and steamed or fried rice. The soup was a dark, richly flavored onion broth with bits of savory fried onions. An iceberg lettuce blend with a sweet, gingery dressing made a refreshing house salad. While grilling the shrimp appetizer, the chef deftly lopped off the tails and flicked them into his hat. The vegetable course was crisp-tender asparagus combined with button mushrooms and grilled onions. A thick onion slice separated into rings became a flaming, lava-spewing volcano; our chef quipped “don’t try this at home.” An egg was juggled and then cracked with a metal spatula before it was added to fried rice.

Fujiyama offers a tempting selection of entrées, including chicken, filet mignon, salmon, scallops and New York steak. Since I was unable to decide, I went with omakase, meaning “chef’s choice” or “I’ll leave it to you.” I was not disappointed with his recommendation of surf and turf—filet mignon and lobster. The delicate seafood was removed from the shell and chopped into bite-sized pieces; after it was grilled it was returned to the shell and served flaming. The beef was flavorful and tender.

My dining partner opted for the calamari. The steaks were quickly grilled and finished with lemon. They were firm yet tender, and the calamari was enhanced but not overwhelmed by the tart juice.

Fujiyama’s dining experience is a harmonious blend of tableside entertainment and exceptional food. The menu appeals to those who prefer traditional Japanese fare as well as those with more adventurous palates.

Janae Colombini