(Please read part 2 -- August 2011)
Fuji Rice Time is a Japanese restaurant in Salem, Oregon. They have a small sushi bar, several tables, and a few booths for dine-in customers. You may also elect to order food to go.
Fuji serves lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. You may order from their sushi menu during this time (as well as at dinner time), but if you don't care for sushi, you may also choose a few plate lunch options. You can get a plate or a bowl (smaller portion), depending on how hungry you are.
Fuji's Teriyaki chicken ($5.95 bowl; $6.95 plate) is good, but not great. The chicken itself is cooked fairly well, although sometimes it may border on the dry side. The teriyaki sauce has nice flavor and complements the chicken well -- so I know I'm still eating chicken. Fuji has a spicy teriyaki chicken option as well, which is what I usually order. The spice is *almost* on the money for me...not insanely hot but still makes me sweat after eating a lot of it. Yes, in other words, I want to be pounding the table and virtually crying uncle as I eat spicy food.
The curry rice ($5.95 bowl; $6.95 plate) is OK. I personally prefer a strong curry flavor, and while the curry taste is there (and you know it's curry), it's not the best curry I've ever had.
The yakisoba (choice of chicken, beef, or vegetarian; $6.95) is decent. Again, they have a spicy option for this menu item. My preference is the spicy chicken yakisoba -- if I want noodles. Same spicy sauce mix as in the spicy teriyaki chicken (without the teriyaki part).
The deep-fried soft shell crab appetizer ($6.95) is successful overall. The crab is soft and delicious, with the ponzu sauce adding some depth on the flavor. Fried seafood lovers will enjoy this.
The tempura is also very good. A pretty ideal amount of tempura batter to seafood/veggie ratio here. When eaten fresh, the crunch from the fried batter is just glorious.
Their dinner spicy chicken and spicy pork items (each $13.95) are good as well, but I would want more spice on there. I love the presentation; they bring it out on that hot skillet. Again, as with all places serving dishes on a hot skillet, one should beware of overcooking the meat and possibly burning the vegetables.
The chirashi ($17.95) could be an ideal choice for the sushi lover. Sushi rice topped with a variety of raw fish. Just hand me the chirashi, some wasabi, soy sauce, and chopsticks, please.
Personally, I feel like I can't go wrong with any of the sushi choices here. The spicy tuna (my default option) is probably the best I've had in Salem -- if you're not looking to burn your mouth. Yes, I could have it a ton spicier, but otherwise, all the items work here for me.
The staff is always friendly and the food gets to me in a reasonable time. I like the decor of the place; the abundance of wood really helps bring out more "Asian" in the restaurant.
There are still a few problems with Fuji. They are open only for limited amounts of time at lunch and dinner -- and the cardinal sin of being closed on a weekend (except for Saturday lunch) just plain sucks. But my one very major problem...there's no one dish or "lure" (such as a spicy/quantity food challenge) that makes this place stand out from other Japanese restaurants. They have special deals, but it's usually the lunch menu items combined with a drink for a slightly cheaper price.
The food, while good, does not make me want to crawl back there. I know that if I keep going back, I'm going to run out of things to get, fall into a funk on default options, and eventually just stop going. There's no real lure out there to keep me coming back -- not even the sushi can save Fuji on this one because I can find several sushi places nearby to satisfy that craving. Sometimes, a place comes along where you just *have* to go even though there are a zillion places like it in town. I don't get that vibe here.
All in all, this is one of my more favorable Japanese restaurants in Salem. However, it needs more to make me want to come back more often. And I would go here for dinner, just so you can get an experience with the full menu.