On Saturday, August 13, my wife and I continued our tour of downtown eating establishments by enjoying some delicious rolls of sushi at Fusian – on Vine Street, just north of Fountain Square – and snacking on a couple of scrumptious cupcakes from Abby Girl Sweets – in the ground level of the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel.
Like most Saturdays, the area of downtown between Sixth Street and Central Parkway was almost completely uninhabited, leaving the sidewalks quiet and the restaurants empty. Although there were plenty of tourists around the hotels and Fountain Square – especially at the upscale and chain restaurants nearby like Rock Bottom Brewery, Boi Na Braza and McCormick & Schmick’s – we were the only customers at Fusian. During the week, the restaurant is always packed for lunch with the line usually stretching out the door, but on the weekend, you can enjoy a much more quiet and relaxed eating experience in its modern, Apple Store-esque, dining room.
Fusian – an Ohio-based chain with 10 locations in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton – stands out among other sushi restaurants by allowing customers to customize their rolls. I’ve seen reviewers refer to Fusian as the Subway or Chipotle of sushi restaurants, and I don’t think there’s a better way to describe it. When you walk up to the counter, you’re greeted by a simple menu of the options available for rice, wraps, protein and veggies. As you choose your ingredients, the employees construct the rolls in front of you, and when everything is rolled and sliced, you can add toppings, sauces and sides. Fusian also offers a unique selection of cold and hot drinks, including teas and lemonades.
As you can see from menu above, Fusian’s selection is limited. For some visitors, this may be a disappointment, and I’ve seen some reviews that rake the restaurant over the coals for not offering proteins like eel and octopus or items like nigiri and sashimi. However, Fusian’s narrow selection allows them to maintain high standards for each of their ingredients. All of the fish is sustainably harvested, and some of the produce is locally sourced. They even have signs alongside of the ingredients explaining their origin, and the baskets and flatware are made from plant-based materials. So, while Fusian might not have the wide selection of a more authentic Japanese sushi house, they maintain an unparalleled commitment to sustainability.
Fusian’s limited yet excellently curated menu additionally means that each ingredient is fresh and delicious. All of the veggies were vibrantly colored, and the fish looked and tasted bright, clean and smooth.
For our meal, my wife and I split three rolls, which was plenty enough food for the two of us. We chose brown rice with the seaweed wrap for each of our rolls, which made for a healthier alternative to the traditional white rice seen at most sushi restaurants. Here’s a breakdown of each roll:
- salmon, avocado, carrot, cucumber and cream cheese topped with spicy mayo and sesame seeds
- tuna, avocado, carrot and cucumber topped with masago (capelin roe) and sesame seeds
- smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber and kale topped with spicy mayo and yakisoba sauce
We also got a small side of pickled ginger, and for drinks, my wife got the lavender lemonade and I settled on the agave gingerade.
All of our norimaki tasted excellent, and although they weren’t the most exciting sushi rolls I’ve ever had, the quality of the ingredients and the cleanness of the fish were second to none. My wife’s favorite was the salmon roll, with its balance of spiciness from the mayonnaise and sweet smoothness from the cream cheese and avocado. I loved the smoked salmon roll – which had an excellent smokiness accentuated by the yakisoba sauce – and the addition of the kale added a nice and unexpected earthiness and crunch. The tuna roll was delicious as well, and the masago brought a nice saltiness and pop of color to this perennial favorite. Finally, the drinks were delicious, refreshing and not overly sweet, and the lavender and ginger flavors were unique yet subtle.
We opted out of adding any additional sides to our meal, and with just a smidgen of room left in our bellies, we walked two blocks over to Abby Girl Sweets to end our lunch with a couple of indulgent and decadent cupcakes. My wife chose the Southern favorite banana pudding, and I went for the classic carrot cake. We’ve been to Abby Girl a few times in the past, and each time we’ve been impressed with the quality. The cakes are always moist, and the icing is rich without being overly saccharine. The banana cupcake had a nice depth of flavor, and even included a dollop of pudding in the center. I enjoyed my carrot cake cupcake as expected, and the spices of the cake were aromatic, delicious and balanced nicely by the cream cheese frosting.
All in all, our Saturday lunch date was fun, relaxing and full of exceptional and wonderful food. Including an additional bottled water from Abby Girl, everything cost just under $38. For those of you wanting to enjoy these same restaurants, I recommend opting for on-street parking on Sixth or Seventh Street, which is cheaper than parking in one of the garages and easier since spots at the meters are almost completely free.
I hope you can roll on over to Fusian and satisfy your sweet tooth at Abby Girl too!