Mt. Fuji

Shrimp_Tempura-2It’s on the ground floor of your office building. We’ve only gone here a few times and the food is really pretty bad, but I really enjoy going there with you. Last night we both wanted Asian food and we got in your car in the parking lot by your office thinking we would drive to Kurama for a better version of the same food, but then we didn’t feel like driving so we parked the car two blocks from where we had gotten into it and walked right back into your building. it occurs to me now that Mt. Fuji is basically in a strip mall even though the strip mall is in a converted 100-year-old warehouse building. So the strip-mall quality of the food suits its location.

I like that the place is anonymous and usually near-empty when we go there, and that we don’t we see anyone we know other than Banks, the kid waiter whose dad was my first-grade teacher (!) — (did you know that?). Banks isn’t a kid anymore, either; he’s 27 or something. But he’s always nice and solicitous, and I like how he always asks us, while he’s clearing our plates, if we want one check or two, as though we aren’t married. It makes me feel like we’re still dating, which is fun. Actually, the whole experience of going there makes me feel like we’re still dating, perhaps because I still vividly recall that one of our first “dates” was at this place. We sat outside and at the end of dinner you kissed me on the cheek. Like it was 1958 or something.

But it’s also just that whole environment, which includes the invariable circumstances of our going there. We never plan to eat there. It’s always a spur-of-the-moment, easiest-choice thing, which somehow makes the mood light and airy and pleasantly inconsequential before we walk in. We have no expectations of the place whatsoever, and yet at the same time it does manage to be amazingly consistent in everything, from its four-on-a-scale-of-ten food to a vaguely disaffected couple invariably seated near us and a group of Duke students chattering at a table of ten and Banks, always smiling and asking if we’d like separate checks.

And so, oddly, Mt. Fuji manages to feel both date-night-invigorating and comfortably midweek-familiar at the same time. It’s a fun place to feel married in, because it partakes of both. And it somehow lowers the sometimes anxious stakes of everything. We talk about my proposal and it’s easy and almost shrugging, like we’re talking about what we need from Target. We talk about our rather fraught Indy column without any fraught feeling. It’s all breezy, and part of that has to do with how uninteresting the food is.

Am I actually supposed to write about the food? Your “orange shrimp” was like General Tso’s Chicken, and in fact the shrimp was scarcely distinguishable from chicken. My udon soup with shrimp tempura, egg and fish cake:

  • was actually a bowl of broth with noodles and a batter-fried egg in it, garnished with scallions;
  • served with a side of shrimp tempura that tasted like what I imagine Applebee’s shrimp tempura would taste like if Applebee’s had shrimp tempura on the menu (which perhaps they do, I’m  not going to check);
  • did not have any fish cake;
  • was perfectly fine until some decisive moment about three-quarters of the way into the broth, when I realized it was incredibly salty and that I was basically just eating a bowl of saltwater with fat flavorless noodles and green onions in it;
  • cost $13.95 — probably more than a similar, better dish would have cost at Kurama.

We could have spent less money at [redacted] or [redacted] for far better food, but somehow Mt. Fuji made me much happier than either of those places would have. The best part of all this came after we were done, when we went right up the stairs to your office so you could put the leftover orange shrimp into your breakroom fridge and we flirted in the library. A perfect sort of married/unmarried hybrid activity.

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