When it comes to the wallet and the palate, happy hour is all about comfort.
Uptown/Lyn-Lake's Fuji Ya respects that maxim, but the secondhand-swank sashimi joint isn't afraid to mix tartare and ponzu into your regularly scheduled post-work indulgences. The traditional Japanese nosh spot hosts one of the Twin Cities' most eclectic happy hours, full of basic sushi starter kits and brave tangents into Asian cuisine -- both of which are plated with a careful artistry that'd make cheese plates and waffle fries tremble with inferiority.
That aesthetic carries over to the bar, where the barkeeps serve sultry fusion cocktails at PBR prices -- a price point anyone can get comfortable with.
Where: Nestled among a scad of vape shops on Lake Street between Lyndale and Garfield. Being off the main Lyn-Lake drag means Fuji Ya offers customer parking, though you still have to pay during normal meter hours.
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 9 to 11 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, and 8 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Basically, if you're dining full price at this place, you're doing it wrong.
What's the vibe: At Fuji Ya, the sushi bar and the cocktail bar sit on opposing sides of the room, creating a diner/lounge feel. Truthfully, the whole room is one strobe from being an uber-mod danceria, but in the light of the afternoon, little charms of the dining room come into light. Swatches of carpet are glued to the legs of bar stools, and bar tables are steeped in red blocks of concrete. The cheap-but-exotic milieu is a pretty good metaphor for the menu itself. By 6 p.m., the place is wall-to-wall with chattering eaters splitting tray after tray of umami seafood.
What can I eat for $10 or less: With a bit of discernment, you can easily match two rolls or appetizers all for less than a Hamilton. Tempura, spicy tuna, and California rolls hover around $5 apiece, with a twofer of nigiri going for a buck less. The wisest buy, though, is the tako yaki -- five pieces of octopus fried like hush puppies in pudding-like rice topped with eerily twitchy katsuobushi flakes. The firm tentacles are a perfect yolk to the gooey, milk-thick batter and toasted exterior. The pickle plate is also worthy for the soy-fermented eggplant alone, though you should be wary that Fuji Ya's online menu is misleadingly out of date.
What can I drink for $5 or less: Premium imports like Kirin Ichiban, Sapporo, and Asahi are all knocked down to $4 a pop, but for the same price, you can suck down a Coconut Fizz -- a slightly Polynesian piña colada made with real coconut puree. There's a Whiskey Ginger for $5, but the true highlight of the cocktail specials is the Melon Cream Soda, a kawaii ombre sake mix that negotiates Midori (a truly unpalatable liqueur) and honeydew with aplomb.
What's so good it's worth getting even though it's not a happy hour deal: Tuna tataki: razor-thin, lightly seared Yellowfin served in a pool of ponzu topped with scallion rings. At $11.25, it's well outside the happy hour realm, but Fuji Ya's tataki is a superbly refined dish that showcases their chefs' artistic commitment to preparation. The plate looks a lot more adventurous than it really is, but your Instagram followers don't need to know that.
Over the course of five small plates, Fuji Ya diners can go from supermarket standard to Nippon delicacy all for less than $20. Whether rice-y Japanese brews or fruity Southeast Asian chillers are your poison of choice, Fuji Ya can facilitate your buzz at a budget, establishing a dichotomy that's far too rare in the happy hour world.
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