It has been there for so long, well before my first Bali visit, so many years ago! There must be a secret! How come it has spawned a virtual empire of restaurants, now eight in all? I decided that it was about time that I discovered what their secret was!
Nestled under, and in front of, the Legian Paradiso Hotel, in the main street of Legian, is Fukutaro. Or to give it it?s politically correct name in the new order; Fukutaro I. No one suggests that this is the best of the chain, that claim usually rests with the more up-market Fukutaro II, at the Kuta Paradiso Hotel in Jln. Kartika Plaza.
The first word that comes to mind, when you slide back the front door of this small restaurant, is clean! Probably the second is cool [from conditioners that quietly work]! A long Sushi bar runs along the left wall, and the front room is full of small tables. Out the back, the more traditional eating rooms [sitting on the floor, of course] exist. The other thing you quickly notice, is the pleasant, non-pushy, greeting from the staff. Hey, I think we might be discovering their secrets already!
What about the food? Quite an enormous menu faces you, but it has been sensibly designed, pictures and all, so that even first-timers are not freaked out! Just don?t stay with those western hang-ups of entrees and mains. As in most Asian cooking, these offerings are all just dishes to be enjoyed, as and when you so desire.
Naturally enough, a large Sushi menu exists. The top of the range is a mixed platter, Shogun, consisting of live lobster, prawn, semi fatty tuna, salmon, tuna maki rolls and a few others. All the different sushi?s are available by the serve [2 pieces]. The choice ranges from the cheap at Rp. 5,000 [Sardines, Snapper, Bonito, King Makeral, Halp Beak, Catfish and Yellow Jack] up to the more exotic. Finest Fatty Tuna at Rp. 55,000 or even Live Lobster at Rp. 66,000! Love it all!
One of my favourite sushi?s is probably the most ordinary of all. Inari Sushi, sushi rice simply stuffed into tofu skin. Your choice of Maki Rolls can be from cucumber, plum, tuna, tuna & chives or slightly fatty tuna. Sashimi can also be ordered in a number of combinations or separately whose varieties also include the more exotic slightly fatty tuna, salmon or live lobster.
You feel like a salad, Japanese style? Well there is a most intriguing Seafood Salad, with what seems to be a bit of everything, or a Gyuniku Tataki [rare roast beef]. One of the first things that cross my mind when I think of Japanese food, is Gyoza. Those wonderful light panfried dumplings with the soy dipping sauce. Here they are perfect!
Ika Nitsuke is squid. A pair of baby squids are cross-sliced and served in a wine-soy sauce. Simple, yet great! You can have a plate of Grilled Prawns or a more traditional Samma [a Pacific Saury fish grilled in salt]. Unagi is freshwater eel! Unagi Kabayaki is just braised eel, whilst Unadon style is braised eel on a bed of rice. Ebi Tempura is a serve of large prawns that have been dipped in that unusual light rice flour batter, and then deep-fried in vegetable oil. Giant Scallops, imported from Japan, are served barbecued.
Chicken dishes start with that old favourite, Yakitori. I believe that Yakitori was once little birds [starlings] on a stick, but practicality has replaced them with chicken. At Fukutaro you can order your Yakitori made from just pure chicken, chicken wings, or a mixed plate of both. Our only serving glitch came with the Yakitori. A normal serve is three sticks. I asked for 4 [for 2 persons], a rather normal request, I would have thought? Their computer cannot handle it! Well, the dumb Systems Analyst didn?t think of it, the real story!
The Chicken Terryaki is a cross-sliced breast of tender chicken, cooked in that tangy terryaki sauce, topped with fried flakes of garlic and served with a few western vegetables [even chips]. This same dish can be had with either beef or pork as well. Chicken Motsuni is a selection of marinated chicken offal, with a sweet soy sauce.
Oyakodon is a mixture of chunks of chicken and onion, covered with a fluffy egg mix and served with a special sweet soy sauce. Omu Rice looks like a traditional western omelette, but it is stuffed with a mixture of fried rice! Don?t forget that this Fukutaro is open 24 hours every day. Drop in and try one of these dishes for breakfast one day! For lunchtime, there is even a selection of Bento boxes, Matsu or Take.
No Japanese restaurant would be complete without Sukiyaki and Shabu-Shabu. Each consist of a large plate of thinly sliced raw beef and piles of assorted vegetables. Cooked at your table in different ways, these dishes really are the epitome of traditional Japanese cuisine.
Gyutang Shioyaki is a beef tongue that has been grilled in salt. Pork Shogayaki is thin slices of pork that have been sauteed in a ginger and soy sauce. Tonkatsu Curry Rice is a plate of curried rice topped with a pork cutlet that has been deep-fried, very crispy!
The Americans may have invented the bottomless cup of coffee, but Fukutaro has invented the bottomless bowl of rice! Just yell out ?oomori?, and it will be re-filled for free. A full range of noodle dishes are here for those who prefer to eat alone. Tempura or Kitsune Soba, Zurusoba, Yakisoba, Somen, Ramen [in a hot pork soup or Hyashi Luka Cold Ramen] or Udon [Beef Kitsune, Tempura, Pork Curry or even just cold noodles].
As you would expect a large range of Sake [served hot or cold] is available, including Kubota, Suishin, Koikomachi and others. So what is their secret? Fairly simple really! A cool, clean, friendly environment with menu and food that doesn?t scare anyone away. Either by it?s complexity, quality or price! No wonder Fukutaro I has been here for so long, and spawned an empire. Well done!