Home Is Where The Maki Is: When Sushi = Family

The Mate and I love sushi. Whenever we’re in our former city of Tacoma, we look forward to visiting our favorite restaurant, Fujiya, owned by Masahiro Endo. The food is close-your-eyes-in-ecstasy wonderful. But truthfully, we’re there for the people.

The first thing we see when we walk into Fujiya is our family holiday picture on the wall, along with a select few others. We know we’re home. It’s been home for 26 years.

We first met Endo-san back in 1990 when we first moved to Washington. Our new house had been built on an unstable slope, and that rainy autumn, some of that slope slid down to the yard of the neighbor at the bottom, breaking through his retaining wall. Endo-san is so proper and polite, he probably never would have complained, but his next-door neighbor intervened on his behalf, demanding that we fix the situation.

Of course we did. The Mate took Endo-san out to lunch at his own restaurant, where they agreed on a plan to pay for repairs. We had already discovered the restaurant, but that day we also discovered a friend.

Sushi is an expensive habit. We rationalized our frequent visits this way: ounce for ounce, it’s about the healthiest protein-fix you can get, especially when supplemented with the veggies that Endo-san would inevitably include in the free dishes he sent to our table. We always left not only full, but carrying leftovers (best breakfast ever!).

Thanks to Fujiya, it’s safe to say we raised our kids on sushi. You’re welcome, boys.

Open you mouth and your eyes...(courtesy Fujiya)

Open you mouth and your eyes…(courtesy Fujiya)

Over the years, we got pretty close to the staff and they to us–after all, they were helping to raise our children. We went to the ballet to see our favorite waitress, Izumi, perform. We attended the wedding of Endo-san’s amazing sous-chef, Juan. (Yes, some of the best sushi in the west is now made by Mexicans. I love it.) And when sweet, funny Annie was tragically killed, we all went to her funeral. (That was when I got my first hug from Endo-san, who in his grief finally got past his Japanese reserve. I’ve been hugging him ever since.)

It’s hard to describe sushi as soul food, pricey¬†and not-for-everyone as it is. But Fujiya feeds our souls as much as our bellies. It’s our Soul Restaurant.

What’s yours? Can you share the story?

Thanks, Endo-san.

Thanks, Endo-san.