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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.