We made a special trip to Irvine, primarily to visit Fukada. This is a small Japanese restaurant in a shopping plaza in Irvine, CA.
They’re doing something right, because this is pictured about 15 before they’ve opened. There were a good 20-30 people waiting outside. There was a sign up clip board on the front door to register our name and party-size.
It’s a modest sized space (probably seats 40 or so). Clean, well-lit, very functional layout.
The menu is an assortment of fairly typical japanese fare, including some slightly more unusual items like eel, duck, natto, mountain potatoes, etc. There seems to be an emphasis on noodles, as well as fresh organic ingredients. I do remember seeing sushi on the menu, although I do not remember seeing anyone order it.
We started with an order of goma-ae
This is cold blanched spinach, spooned over with a dressing of soy, sugar, sesame seeds, and dashi stock. This was pretty good. Notable for the use of whole toasted sesame seeds rather than sesame paste. It added a slightly different dimension for texture.
Next came agedashi tofu.
This is soft tofu cubes, dredged in seasoned starch, and deep fried lightly. It’s served in a sauce of dashi stock, soy and mirin, garnished with scallions and finely shredded bonito flakes. This was very good. The tofu was warm and quite soft (had to be delicate handling it with chopsticks), with a lightly crisp coating. The sauce was savory and sweet.
Next came the appetizer of tonkatsu.
This is a pork loin chop, tipped in a liquid batter, and dredged in panko, then deep-fried to a crunch. It’s sliced and served with shredded cabbage with a drizzle of miso dressing. This was okay. It was a very lean cut of pork, so it came out a little dry. The seasoning and taste were right. I don’t think it was overcooked, just really lean.
Next came the udon soup with tempura “bits”.
There’s actually a proper name for those “bits” but it escapes me. But that is what they are. It’s the little chunks of fried tempura batter that’s skimmed off the deep fryer after making a batch of tempura. The soup is quite nice, a warm broth of light dashi, with fresh udon noodles, seasoned with scallions and seaweed, and of course, the tempura batter bits. They have a nice crisp crunch for about the first minute or so when the soup arrives, before they go soggy. The noodles were freshly made in-house, and slightly thinner than most udon noodles I’ve had before.
Addendum: mystery solved, the “bits” are called “tanuki”.
Along with the soup came assorted tempura on brown rice
So this is a bowl of brown short grain rice, covered with an assortment of tempura vegetables and prawns. There was eggplant, zucchini, carrots, lotus root, sweet potatoes, and two prawns. This was good tempura. It’s a little heavier than I’m used to, but still very enjoyable. The batter had a good crispy/crunch to it. It came with bowl of tempura dipping sauce made from soy, mirin and dashi.
This is an extremely busy place, and they don’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait for a table. The service was a bit slow, but perhaps to be expected given how busy they are.