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Mt. Fuji – It’s not just dining, it’s an experience – Part One

 

PHOTO SOURCE: Mt. Fuji (Hillburn) Facebook Page

Nestled high up on a mountain side in Hillburn, New York, is an impressive site. It’s called Mt. Fuji.

Back in the early 1990’s, I used to come to the area frequently from upstate, New York. I would pass Hillburn on Route 17. I’ve seen Mt. Fuji many times, but back then I had no idea what it was. It wasn’t until I met and married my husband in the late 90’s did I find out that the huge building on the mountain side was called Mt. Fuji, and that it was a restaurant.

Over the years, I have always wanted to go to Mt. Fuji and see what it was like to be so far up on the mountain. I could only imagine the spectacular views from up there. I also wondered if you could see New York City from Mt. Fuji.

My husband went to Mt. Fuji decades ago with his family. Our son has also been to Mt. Fuji to attend a party. Our daughter went there with friends too. So I am the only person in my family who has never been to Mt. Fuji. That all changed this past weekend.

Mt. Fuji is part of a chain of restaurants owned and operated by the Fujita family.

Tokuaki “Tony” Fujita was born in Tokushima, Japan. Back then he was was more into Greco-Roman wrestling than anything else (he even competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics). It wasn’t until he came to the United States that his vision of becoming a restauranteur one day came to life.

Mr. & Mrs. Fujita. PHOTO SOURCE: Mt. Fuji’s website.

“Tony” and his wife Kazue (“Kay”) started out as a dishwasher and a waitress. With a lot of hard work and dedication they eventually opened their first restaurant, a luncheonette called “Mr. Fujiyama’s,” back in 1968. That luncheonette eventually led to a multi-chain of Japanese Steakhouses called, Mt. Fuji. Eventually there would be a total of nine restaurants throughout the New York Tristate area (NY, NJ, CT). Today there are two Mt. Fuji restaurants, one in Hillburn, N.Y., and the other in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.

I love to hear stories about people dedicated to their passions and who reach their dreams. I find those kinds of stories to be incredibly inspirational.

This past weekend I was given the opportunity to go to Mt. Fuji (FINALLY!) and experience it for myself. My husband came along as well.

Mt. Fuji is located at 296 Old Route 17, Hillburn, N.Y. (10931 is the zip code). It was very easy to find, even more so when you see the massive red structure greeting you at the base of their driveway and that bottom of the mountain. My picture does NOT do this structure justice. It’s MASSIVE!

Driving up the winding driveway to the top of the mountain you could get a glimpse of the beautiful scenery that surrounds the area (Ramapo Valley), as well as Route 17.

At the top of the driveway you’ll find the restaurant.

Mt. Fuji only offers valet parking. It’s free (although a tip is always appreciated). By offering valet parking only, Mt. Fuji is better able to accommodate guests. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to wanting to park in a parking spot, but an inconsiderate driver has parked crooked, taken up two parking spots or some other reason to prevent you from parking your vehicle. The valet’s at Mt. Fuji are great at their job and ensure that there is ample parking for all of their guests. They are also very fast, so you won’t have to worry about waiting on a long line to either drop off your car, or pick it up as you are leaving.

Before you enter the restaurant you’ll walk through a very beautiful garden area, complete with water. I could sit and listen to the water and enjoy the gorgeous flowers all day. I also found the garden to be very welcoming.

Inside were were happily greeted by the host and hostess of the restaurant.

Before we sat down to eat we were introduced to to the new Y Lounge that recently opened at Mt. Fuji in Hillburn.

The Y Lounge is separate from the main dining area. The Y Lounge is meant more for people to meet up with friends to enjoy the spectacular views, live music (currently Friday – Sunday, but offering it more days is in the works), drinks and the most amazing foods you can imagine.

The Y Lounge offers comfortable seating. There is even a separate room for parties and/or large groups. The private room opens up to the lounge, or it can be closed off for a more personal space.

It was in the lounge where we had the opportunity to sit down with the restaurant’s owner, Nancy Fujita. She was happy to answer all the questions me and my husband had about the restaurant and lounge.

I learned that the Hillburn location has been around since 1985. The first time I drove past it was 1987. That seems like a lifetime ago.

Most of the decor you see all around the restaurant was either imported from Japan, or created by Japanese artists and craftsman that came over from Japan.

I don’t say this often, but when you visit the restaurant, be sure to look up. Even the ceilings are beautiful to look at.

Mrs. Fujita went on to tell us about how the restaurant is all about hospitality and creating an authentic Japanese experience to the restaurant patrons. You can tell that all of the employees take pride in how well they treat their guests. My husband will agree with me when I say that every employee that we saw was friendly, smiling and happy. We’ve been to a lot of restaurants, and we’ve never seen such genuinely happy people, as far as the employees are concerned. The moment you step foot in the restaurant you feel very welcomed. That is all part of the vision they had for the restaurant.

We went on to talk about the incredible views and how beautiful they are, most especially during autumn when the leaves change color. My husband and I plan on returning to the restaurant to see that view.

The food available in the Y Lounge is by the amazing Chef Shinohara. He’s worked in many 5 star restaurants in both Japan and New York.

The ingredients to make most of the dishes offered at the Y Lounge come from Japan, as well as most of the dishes and utensils.

We had the opportunity to sample some foods available in the Y Lounge. The food available in the lounge is different than the food available in the main restaurant section. The foods available in the lounge is lighter fare, like snacks and appetizers. But don’t let my use of “snacks” make you think of chips and dips. No way! The menu items are gourmet items and not something you would find in an average lounge.

My husband and I got to try the Crispy Okaki Asparagus and the Honey Spice Burrata. There are many other mentu items (the photo is just from a small section of it).

I should note that chop sticks are readily available, but they do have traditional (American) utensils as well (forks, spoons…).

The first item was tried was the Crispy Okaki Asparagus. We love asparagus, but it’s not a vegetable that we purchase often. It was “to die for!” Oh my goodness!!! It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! The crispy “coating” on the asparagus is so flavorful. The crispiness of the coating and the perfectly cooked piece of asparagus were the perfect combination. Even the presentation was beautiful. I would never think to eat asparagus on a stick.

The other dish we tried is the Honey Spice Burrata. I have never heard of this before, but it sounded interesting.

The Honey Spice Burrata has a perfectly rounded mound of soft mozzarella, spices, sweet honey, oil that was turned into tiny “pearls” (so cool!), real gold leaf (which is edible), and edible flowers. It also comes with mouth watering garlic crostini.

MMM!!!! I could LITERALLY eat this every day! I couldn’t get enough of it. Even after we finished the crostini, I still ate this using a spoon. The next time we go back to the Y Lounge, I am definitely ordering this again.

I did see some families in the Y Lounge when we visited Mt. Fuji, but that is because it’s a lovely place to sit and relax while waiting for a table. A lot of guests also wanted to take in the incredible views.

Personally, I’d love to meet up with friends at the Y Lounge. I found it very relaxing and comfortable. The live music added to the experience. I don’t recall the name of the band that was playing the other night, but they were really good.

The Y Lounge is a great way to start off your lunch or dinner, or finish it. The Y Lounge is also a great place to meet up with friends, family and co-workers to sit, relax, chat and take in the whole Mt. Fuji experience.

This was only the first stop for us at Mt. Fuji. Since this post is already long, I am going to continue this review in another post.

If you would like to learn more about Mt. Fuji, you can visit MtFujiRestaurants.com. They can also be found on social media. Those links are found on the bottom of their website.

If you are in the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey, Conneticut – even Pennsylvania), Mt. Fuji is something to be experienced. Depending on traffic and your exact location, you can get to Mt. Fuji in Hillburn from New York City in about an hour to an hour and a half. It’s so worth the drive!

Kimberly

*I received free food/beverages while at Mt. Fuji in order to do this review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way. 

See New York in a way you never imagined aboard the Spirit of New York

 

Spirit of New York Cruise

We currently live just outside New York City. We try and get into the city as often as we can. Even though we are New Yorkers and the city is not “new” to us, we still like to do “touristy” things. Plus it’s New York City – I don’t think it’s possible to see and do it all.

A couple of weeks ago my husband had some vacation time. Our son is in love with New York City (he plans on living/working there when he’s older). We thought it would be fun to show him a different side of the city, one we rarely see. So we took our family to the “Top of the Rock” which is a viewing platform on top of Rockefeller Center.

Top of the Rock

My kids on one of the viewing decks at Top of the Rock.

We have viewed New York City from the windows of skyscrapers before. It was really cool to be standing outside on the roof of a skyscraper. We took plenty of great photos.

The next day we planned on returning to New York City and take a lunch cruise aboard the Spirit of New York.

The Spirit of New York cruise leaves from Pier 61 at Chelsea Piers, which is located on the West Side Highway (officially the Joe DiMaggio Highway). I have driven past Chelsea Piers numerous times. This was the first time I was actually going to stop there.

Spirit of New York Ship

We were worried about parking but we found they had ample parking available right there at the pier – next to the boat too! Parking is not cheap (it’s NYC – parking is rarely inexpensive). For the amount of time we were parked (approx. 3+ hours) parking was nearly $40.00. That is an average price for parking, but for “newbies” who are not used to parking in the city it can be a shock to see how much it costs. Trust me, it’s well worth it.

Our Spirit of New York boat (ship?) was docked right next to where we parked. We picked up our tickets and were told they were going to board shortly. That gave us some time to check out the pier and take plenty of pictures of our boat.

When it was time board all the guests lined up in an orderly fashioned and boarded the boat. The staff members took photos of everyone before boarding the ship. The purchase of the photos is OPTIONAL. One package was $35 and the other was $40. Each included a Spirit of New York mat, a large photo and a few smaller photos. You can purchase your photos (if you want) during the cruise.

As soon as we boarded we were ushered to our table. This was a lunch cruise and they even had a DJ spinning some tunes.

Our server for the day was De Sean. He was very friendly and happy. Sometimes you get servers at restaurants that you can tell don’t want to be there. Not De Sean. He was very happy. His great mood only added to our already great mood. Even the ships manager, Royale, stopped by to introduce herself and to say “hello”. \

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De Sean brought us a platter of cheeses, fresh fruits, fresh veggies and plenty of crackers. We were all hungry so this was a nice surprise. My husband was a bit “iffy” about eating much because he’s never been on a boat before – nor has our son. They were not sure how they would handle the rocking motion of the boat. We all took Dramamine before we left to help with any “sea sickness”.

As we enjoyed the bounty of fresh fruits and veggies placed before us we were also treated to beverages and some great music being spun by the DJ.

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Lunch is served buffet style. They had A LOT of food to choose from. My daughter and I had no problem sampling a little bit of everything on our plates. My husband and son were still a bit iffy about being on the boat and eating, so they just picked up a few things to pick at.

De Sean was always available to clear off plates, get us more drinks or anything we needed.

After we stuffed ourselves on delicious foods De Sean told us we should step outside and enjoy the view. He also told us that he had a surprise in store for us. We were anxious to find out what it was.

When you are dining on the ship you are able to get an amazing view of New York City and New Jersey from the HUGE windows that are all around the dining area. The windows were spotless so you could easily take amazing photos from inside the boat/ship. We were too busy enjoying the great food that we almost missed out on some spectacular views of the city we love.

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This is the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.

New York City - Manhattan

New York City – Manhattan

Our ship made its way down the Hudson River towards Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Along the way the DJ pointed out some areas of interest.

When we made our way to the Statue of Liberty the boat stopped for a bit so we can take amazing pictures. They even played some patriotic music to add to the occasion.

I have not been to the Statue of Liberty since I was about 5 or 6 years old. I barely remember it (I did walk up to the crown). All I remember was a lot of stairs. I have also flown over the statue in a helicopter. I never could imagine getting so close to the statue and taking amazing photos like I did on the Spirit of New York. It was breathtaking!

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After a brief stop at the Statue of Liberty De Sean located us on the ship and told us to head up to the top level for our “surprise”. Whatever could it be? My daughter said “I hope it’s chocolate”. LOL! Gotta love kids. What we received was better than any chocolate in the world.

Once upstairs De Seas ushered us to the front of the ship and straight into the captains area – the area where they “drive” the boat (I’m sorry, I don’t know the technical term of that area).

There we met the two captains, Captain Mike and Captain Dan.

We stood there with our jaws dropped to the ground and in total awe of the entire experience.

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We enjoyed watching how they controlled the ship and being up front like we were we were able to see THE MOST BEAUTIIFUL VIEWS of New York City. Even writing this I am getting chills just thinking about how amazing, beautiful, incredible and spectacular the views were. We have been all over New York City before. NOTHING prepared us for the views of our beloved city that we saw while aboard the Spirit of New York.

Captain Dan and Captain Mike were happy to answer any questions for us. They also pointed out a few interesting things along the way. Talk about a personalized tour – WOW! That’s an understatement.

We didn’t want to over stay our welcome so we thanked the captains for their time and headed back on to the ship where the rest of the guests were hanging out.

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The Spirit of New York has ample seating – both inside and out. There were plenty of sofas, chairs and tables to enjoy the view from any spot on the ship.

My family stood there “oo’ing” and “ahh’ing” over the breathtaking views.

De Sean located us again and invited us downstairs for dessert. When we made our way back to the table we were immediately served drool-worthy desserts. Mmm… YUMMY!

We stayed inside for a bit, enjoying the view from our table and watching other guests “shake their booty” (dancing) on the dance floor. The vibe from everyone was electric. People where laughing, dancing and truly enjoying themselves. I tried to get my kids to dance but they looked at me in horror just for merely suggesting it (got to love teenagers).

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Soon it was time to dock and end our amazing cruise. Before leaving De Sean presented us with souvenir glasses from the Spirit of New York. That was such a wonderful and unexpected surprise. We were still in “awe” over the fact that we were hanging out with the captains not too long before that. He even gave us a HANDWRITTEN note on a Spirit of New York card congratulations us for selling our condo. WOW! Simply WOW! We never, ever expected any of this.

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And so ended an incredible afternoon and being able to see the city we love from an angle that we have never seen before. My kids could not stop talking about it all the way home. In fact it’s been a couple of weeks and our daughter is STILL talking about it. She wants to gather up some of her friends and go on the dinner cruise they offer so they can see the city at night time (which must be truly amazing). She’s only 16 (as are her friends) so coming up with the money and transportation is an issue, but she’s determined to make it happen. She loved the cruise THAT MUCH.

Even as we excited the ship staff members were handing out fresh baked chocolate chip cookies to everyone. :-)!

The cruise runs about two hours (the dinner cruise is three hours). The ship travels down the Hudson River and up the East River for a bit. On the dinner cruise the ship typically goes up the Hudson River far enough so you can see the Intrepid.

The staff was amazing. Everyone was happy, smiling and willing to help you out in any way. Even the manager Royale was always making herself available to her guests and happy to answer any questions. I have never come across a group of employees/staff THAT friendly and nice in all my years.

As you can imagine we took A LOT of pictures. Here are a few random ones. I don’t want to share them all because I’d love for people to have the opportunity to experience these views for themselves someday.

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Brooklyn Bridge – there is a reflection from the window on the photo. It was taken where the captains steer the ship.

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The cost of the cruise (per person) varies depending on the time of day and the type of cruise. Spirit of New York offers guests a variety of cruise options including lunch cruises, dinner cruises and entertainment cruises. The ships depart from different locations (there is even a Spirit of New Jersey cruise). Spirit of New York is part of the Entertainment Cruise Lines. They have cruise ships in various cities including Boston, Norfolk and Baltimore to name a few.

The cruise ships are also available for private parties, weddings and group events. While we were there a large group from BMW was also on the ship.

Not that I have mentioned it too much on my blog, but the day we were on the cruise was the day we sold our condo which has been on the market for a year. So we had something special to celebrate. And what a better way to celebrate than with your family enjoying a delicious meal and spectacular views of New York City and New Jersey.

Please check to see what type of attire is required. The lunch cruises are more casual. The dinner and entertainment cruises have a specific dress code.

For more information about Spirit of New York visit www.SpiritofNewYork.com. You can also check them out on Facebook.

If you are not in the New York City area, or don’t plan on coming this way anytime soon, you can also check out Entertainment Cruises to find another cruise line near you – www.EntertainmentCruises.com.

Our Family

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Kimberly

*I received free tickets in order to facilitate this review. There was no compensation. The opinions expressed are my own and not influenced in any way.