Bringing life back to downtown San Jose’s dining scene.
by Alexander Quebec
One night while waiting for a friend out in Downtown San Jose, I struck up a conversation with restaurant owner Thai Nguyen. We talked about the differences in nightlife between San Jose and San Francisco, and we both acknowledged that if the two were to go head to head San Francisco would win time and time again. Not to say that San Jose’s nightlife isn’t that great, but that it’s a different animal compared to a major city. With that in mind, many owners are doing everything they can to bring a world class nightlife to America’s 10th largest city, among them is one of Nguyen’s current businesses: Fuz Bar and Grill.
Located on the former site of the Bella Mia Bar and Restaurant, Fuz sits in the middle of a small yet active nightlife enclave on First Street in Downtown San Jose. A two story building with the bar and restaurant on the first floor and a banquet hall on the second, Fuz aims to become a fixture in that part of downtown bringing a new option for those heading out for a night out.
The front doors lead into a lounge area with booth style benches and tables running parallel against the wall, creating a runway of sorts for the patrons walking in from the street. The aged red brick walls and the overall subdued lighting and color scheme make the place inviting and welcoming, a contrast to the dark wood furniture and bar area that gives the feel of uptown sophistication.
Further along the walk towards the back, a set of more booths and bar tables come about, this place was made for crowds. Ending the walk down the restaurant is a patio area, where plans are underway to transform it into a new experience for the downtown crowd, as well as playing host to large parties and events, according to manager Thai Nguyen.
A veteran of the restaurant industry, Nguyen currently owns the Crawdaddy chain of restaurants in the Bay Area, in addition to ownership of the restaurant portion at Fuz. Previously working in both the high tech and nightlife industries, Nguyen has been in the restaurant business for almost 10 years and desires to rise to the challenge of making Fuz one of Downtown San Jose’s most prominent hot spots in one of America’s largest cities.
What’s going to make this spot stand out in Nguyen’s opinion is the menu, which includes a line up of Japanese fusion tapas. While I was there, I had the chance to try one of their signature appetizers, the Japanese Fried Chicken, developed by their executive chef Randall Toshio Urabe, an experienced chef from several Michelin awarded restaurants such as Alexander’s Steakhouse (he was a part of the opening team that scored a Michelin awarded), Kaygetsu, and Okane.
When I sat down to talk to Chef Randy about Fuz, he told me he was inspired to work at Fuz since San Jose is his hometown. He wanted to create a menu with the quality based off his experiences working in higher end establishments, but at a level many customers can enjoy.
I enjoyed the crispy skin and the tender juicy meat of the Japanese Fried Chicken. Fried chicken can go wrong so easily, from soggy skin to dry meat, so I was thrilled and excited to know that the chicken here was just right. I also had the opportunity to try the Fried Chicken Sliders as well, again, the chicken was perfect, accompanied by tomato and a savory sweet sauce on a brioche style bun.
Catherina tried three other menu items: the Hamachi shots, the Tempura Avocado, and the Agedashi Tofu. She described the hamachi shots as having an earthy taste from the truffle ponzu sauce, which were also garnished with herbs and black sesame seeds. It starts earthy, but ends on a sour note that lingers on the palate well after you’re done with the dish.
With an attractive presentation, she described the Tempura Avocado as having a great texture and a taste one would expect from an avocado prepared tempura style. The final dish she tried was the Agedashi Tofu, four silken tofu squares tempura style in a sweet soy broth garnished with bonito flakes, scallions, daikon, and seaweed. The dish was savory. but also a bit sweet as well
With a great location, a menu line up inspired by some of the Bay Area’s most highly acclaimed restaurants and experienced leadership, Fuz may be able to bring a much needed infusion of new blood into the dining scene of Downtown San Jose.
Fuz is located off of South First Street in San Jose, between Temple Bar and Lounge and Original Gravity Public House. They are open from 11:30 to 2:30 Monday through Friday for Lunch and 5:30 to 12AM for dinner. On Saturday, they are open from 5:30 to 1:30 AM and Sundays 5:30 AM to 10 PM
All photos courtesy of the Fuz Facebook page. Catherina Silva contributed to this article.
Oops – A previous edition listed Thai Nguyen as the manager of the restaurant, he is actually the owner of the restaurant portion of Fuz. The writer apologizes for and regrets this error.