The promise of sushi has lingered over Fondren for the last few years, and finally it has come to fruition thanks to Fatsumo Sushi, the latest restaurant to hit Duling Avenue. A friend and I decided to check it out this evening, just a few weeks after the restaurant opened.
I had heard mixed reviews of the place: some loved, some not-so-much, but I always try to keep an open mind until I’ve had a chance to try something for myself. We arrived early, around 6:15, and decided to sit outside since the weather was so nice. The outdoor seating is limited, and as we sat down I noticed our table was leaning. It was not an uneven table, more like uneven ground. The outdoor seating is in an alcove between Fatsumo and the Duling School building, and the sidewalk is not exactly flat. It wasn’t too bothersome, though, so we opened our menus and perused the restaurant’s offerings. The menu was not overwhelmingly lengthy, and following the theme (the mascot is literally a “fat sumo” guy), dishes are categorized according to “weight class.” My friend and I had a lot of catching up to do, but eventually we realized that nobody had come to even get a drink order yet, and we had been sitting there for a good 15 minutes or so. It wasn’t so busy at this time that the waitstaff were slammed, either. I chalked it up to the fact that this is still a very new restaurant.
Finally our waiter came out and got our drink orders. We both ordered tall-boy Sapporos, and we also chose the Bada Bing for our appetizer. The menu is slightly confusing when it comes to appetizers, by the way. At the top you’ll see “Starters,” which are the traditional sushi restaurant apps like edamame, gyoza and egg rolls (which looked more like spring rolls), but then toward the bottom of the menu you’ll find the “Appetizers” section. Anyway, the Bada Bing was described as “Soft shell crab with citrus mint and fried onions.” Our waiter tried to compare it to the “Bang Bang Shrimp” that I’ve only heard about from Bonefish Grill, but neither of us had ever eaten at a Bonefish so the comparison didn’t do any good (score one for eating local!).
The appetizer was pretty good, but not what I expected for soft shell crab. Growing up in Mississippi, I can honestly say that other than when it is stuffed into a sushi roll, I’ve never had soft shell crab any way but whole or at least halved. This dish featured cut up crab, deep fried and soaked in a tangy sauce and topped with roe. The bits of mint we found toward the bottom really made the dish. I would’ve appreciated more mint, maybe sprinkled on top in addition to the few leaves we found within the dish. Only once could I really tell for sure that this was crab - the bite-size pieces bore a stronger resemblance to shrimp, and this dish would be good with shrimp if crab wasn’t available. But maybe Bonefish has a copyright on Bang Bang Shrimp, I have no idea.
For those of you with kids, I noticed there are a few kid-friendly items on the menu. Fatsumo puppies, which the menu described as “mini corn dogs,” and of course chicken nuggets. But honestly, as you read on, you will see that this is a very Americanized version of sushi, so your little ones might be just fine sampling one of the “Grand Champion” sushi rolls.
For our entrees, we chose a salmon roll and a spicy tuna roll (two “safe” options that you might find at any sushi restaurant), and then we went out on a limb and ordered from the Grand Champion menu: the Orange Grove roll, the Fatsumo roll, and the Pebble Beach. The two “safe” rolls were perfectly made and tasted fresh. The prices for those rolls were on par with other area restaurants (between $4 and $5 apiece). The Orange Grove featured smoked salmon, cream cheese, jalapenos, pineapple, tempura fried and topped with blue crab salad, crispy shallots and Asian remoulade. The Fatsumo has tempura shrimp, masago, “pressed crunchies”, togarashi, topped with spicy tuna, shredded krabstick and Asian remoulade. The Pebble Beach had bay scallops, tempura whitefish, sweet onion, Asian remoulade and lime cilantro sour cream.
To be honest, I had to refer back to the menu in order to list all those ingredients. Each roll was tasty, I will give them that. But if you notice, there’s a theme going on at Fatsumo. Fried, smothered in sweet (”Asian remoulade,” or in some cases, a ginger orange marmalade). My Southern/American heart clogged up a little with love for the flavors of fried fish dipped in sweet sauce, with just a little spice in the Fatsumo roll especially - but the Foodie in me, the sushi lover in me, kinda wished I had ordered from the Appetizer menu instead. The Appetizer menu features ceviche, “fish salad” with fresh fish, avocado, cucumber and tomato in a ginger soy dressing, and tuna tataki. The selection of traditional sushi rolls is limited in comparison with local favorites Sakura Bana/Little Tokyo and Nagoya.
And the flavors honestly started running together among the three Grand Champion rolls. The Orange County almost tasted like “bad groceries” (that’s a southern term for something gone sour) when eaten in combination with the other rolls, until I realized that it contained smoked salmon. That smoke flavor stands out in opposition to the other more typical sushi flavors. But as a standalone roll, it’s not bad.
For dessert we tried the Fatsumo Puffs, which were wonton wrappers - fried, surprise - that were supposed to be stuffed with cream cheese and covered in a strawberry sauce. Problem is, ours didn’t seem to have any cream cheese in them. They were good in spite of this, pleasantly warm and sweet like a State Fair funnel cake - they just would’ve been mountaintop with the cream cheese inside. I pointed this out to the waiter and they comped our dessert.
Overall, service was seemingly slower for our table than the ones around us for some reason. The sushi was just ok - the inventive rolls were too Americanized, too much grease and sweet sauce, and the traditional rolls were good but nothing to write home about. My friend and I both felt that the prices were too high in comparison with other sushi restaurants in town. Our bill was around $80 for two people and that’s without dessert, and we only had 3 beers between us. We both left stuffed, there’s no doubt about that, but let’s just say I’m glad I’m not getting my cholesterol checked tomorrow.
Would I go back? Maybe, but I’d try the fresher, un-fried items on the Appetizer menu and maybe some of the more traditional rolls next time. It is nice to have a sushi restaurant closer to the center of Jackson, and more options in Fondren are always welcome, but I have to say that it just isn’t on par with Sakura Bana, which is my (and many of yours I am sure) measuring stick for Jackson sushi.