July 2010

FANCY Q - Excuse Me, Waiter. There’s a Dragon on My Plate!

Author: Frank Dunne, Jr. | Photographer: John Brackett

“Irasshaimase!”

It means “Welcome,” or something close to it; and before you realize that anybody noticed your entrance, a hearty and enthusiastic “Irasshaimase!” resounds from the sushi bar’s direction. A momentary brouhaha shatters the serene ambiance that we identify with Asian dining. Then things return to normal—James and Tim expertly rolling and cutting the pieces of sushi and sashimi as Melissa—polite and demure—guides you to your table, or if you choose, the sushi bar, to enjoy the tranquility. That is, until the next customer walks in.

Fancy Q Sushi Bar and Grill has been warmly greeting customers and putting little dragons on plates (more about that later) since October, 2009, when Eddie Qiu opened his third establishment, located in Northridge Plaza—the others being on St. Simons Island, Georgia and Amelia Island, Florida.

One thing you’ll notice about Fancy Q is that the room is small and quaint. While an intimate atmosphere is part of the reason for that, there is more to the story. Qiu’s near obsession with freshness and quality dictates that the restaurant remain relatively small. “If you have 50 tables in your restaurant, it’s impossible to order every day, because it’s impossible to know what you’re going to sell,” said manager, Jason Lusher. “Here we’re able to bid our tuna fresh and order air-mailed salmon every day, which makes a huge difference. We’re insanely fresh!”
Ordering every day may not sound like such a big deal, but Lusher explains that suppliers are not accustomed to filling orders every single day for one customer. Sometimes their delivery schedules just don’t satisfy Fancy Q’s need to have fresh food every day. “We have North Atlantic Scottish salmon air-mailed in every day. Most sushi houses serve Alaskan salmon. Our salmon is a sweet, perfect textured fish.”

For other ingredients, Lusher keeps things closer to home. “We use wild Georgia shrimp, which is pretty unique to the sushi scene. Most use the overseas imports, but we do the local sweet shrimp,” he said. “We’re pushing the ‘next evolution,’ while keeping the tradition as far as portion and price. But it’s our daily food order that makes us different.”

Enough about the food before it gets to the table. I’m hungry, so let’s have lunch. “What’s the most popular item on the menu?” I asked.
“The most popular item would be the first item that’s served on the table, and that’s the Eddie’s Special,” said Lusher. “We take two crab legs and put a little light Philly cream cheese in the middle. It’s tempura battered and fried, and we put a special Eddie’s sweet sauce and shrimp sauce on top.” If the cream cheese makes you skeptical, forget it and give this a try. It’s delicious and a harbinger of what is to come. Not to mention, a really good way to warm up your chopstick fingers.
To wet your whistle, Fancy Q offers a selection of Japanese wine and sake, imported and domestic beers, and soft drinks. Personally, I usually go for tea when dining Asian (at least at lunchtime on a work day) and chose the daiei green tea—tasty and full of antioxidants—and there’s just something about those little cups with no handles that makes tea taste better.

Next, a little bowl of Clear Soup, a simple but flavorful combination of beef and fish stocks with scallions, mushrooms, and panko bread crumbs to add a little crunch; and then it was time to get busy.

At Lusher’s suggestion, I tried the Shrimp Tempura Roll, a shrimp roll with cucumber, topped with pieces of spicy tuna and yellow fin sashimi, and a jalapeno pepper. That’s a lot going on for with one little piece of sushi, and I say little for effect only. The dish includes eight pieces and is under $5. A perfect selection if you like it spicy.

Now, about that dragon. My next plate was the Lucky Dragon Roll, for which the presentation actually looks like a dragon. A friendly-looking, cartoonish sort of dragon, but unmistakably a dragon with a head made out of an orange slice and rind, and two little balls of wasabi for eyes. Twelve spicy tuna and avocado rolls topped with seared white tuna and snow crab lay in a serpentine pattern to form the dragon’s body. It almost looked too cool to eat…almost.

I’d love to tell you more, but at this point I was kind of full so you’re going to have to check it out for yourself. If you believe that the sushi choices around here have been lacking, Fancy Q might be the answer, for both quality and value. The sushi bar portion of the menu contains 62 items.

And everything is hormone-free and MSG-free as well as fresh cut and fresh cooked to order. “We don’t add an ingredient,” said Lusher, “because nature gets it perfect.”

Fancy Q is located in Northridge Plaza at 435 William Hilton Parkway, Unit G, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926. Phone: (843) 342-6626.

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