What is in a name? I'd heard about Fugu restaurant from a person I ran into in Madison during a previous visit. After being told what type of cuisine the place specialized in I was really, really, puzzled....more on that later. I promised myself that I'd check the place out if I ever returned to Madison.....and a bit over a month ago I had that chance.
Now what kind of food do you think a place called Fugu serves? I think most people know that Fugu is the Japanese name for puffer fish, so this is Japanese restaurant, right? Here's a photo of the dining area......
Looks like a pretty generic, low-middle range, perhaps Asian restaurant, right? Open up the menu and you'll see dishes like Masaman Curry, Basil Eggplant, and Pad See Ew..... Fugu, a Thai restaurant? Look at the website and check out the most popular dishes....hmmmm, Spring Rolls, Crab Rangoon, Sesame Chicken? Sounds like perhaps a Thai - ABCDE (American born Chinese dining establishment). When I arrived, I was given two menus...the first had those Thai and ABCDE dishes. The second looked something like this:
Even though the area around State Street has it's share of Indian, Nepalese, and Afghan restaurants, a few of which I've eaten at, for some reason I'd never been motivated to eat at the Japanese and Chinese restaurants in the area. Until I heard about Fugu's Sichuan menu.
Since it was a solo eating trip, I ordered just two dishes. The first was the Zi Ran Yang Rou (Cumin Lamb ($14.95).
One of my favorite dishes, I often make it at home with cumin from Xinjiang. This however, was not a good rendition. The lamb was very mildly flavored, the meat cut really thick was tough, and I think the cumin was added to late as there was a real powdery texture to the dish.
Not a real good start. The other dish I ordered was the "Hot Crispy Pork Intestine" ($13.95), basically deep fried intestine with dried chilies.
Ordering this was a bit of an adventure of sorts....you see, I ordered the lamb in Mandarin....really bad Mandarin. I had no idea of how to order this so I just ordered it in English. The young man taking my order took a step back. He asked me, "you sure???" Of course I was sure. He walked away and placed the order....then came back to verify the order....twice!
As you can tell by the photos, this was pretty good. Not too spicy and the flavors of Sichuan Peppercorns were present, though not quite enough for my tastes. Still, the pork intestine was well prepared....and fried to a crisp. If I told you this was chicken skin, albeit a slightly funky chicken skin, you'd love it. This was a nice dish overall.......and in Madison, who'd have thunk it?
Being used to West Coast Sichuan prices, I found the cost a bit high and the portions a bit small. But those pork intestines were quite good. As I left, the place had filled up....with Chinese students, many of which were hovering over steaming cauldrons of Huo Guo (Hot Pot), the familiar and temping fragrances dancing in the air as I walked out....of a restaurant called Fugu.....with a menu of American-Chinese and Thai dishes....in Madison, Wisconsin....that serves up some decent Sichuan food.
411 West Gilman St
Madison, WI 53703
I walked to one of those chain bar and grills for a night cap and was happy to see a couple of local brews on tap. So I got....Totally Naked!!! Well, the beer of course..... a light ale that went down real smooth and quick. A perfect end to the evening. You didn't think that I'd be..... well......you knew it was about a beer right????