This restaurant in Chennai has always missed my eye. For one it was in a area I do not request and most importantly when I google for top Japanese restaurants Fuji Japanese restaurant does not top the list.
So when I visited the place today, it was pleasant surprise. The interiors for me brought the feel of Japan in the small pleasantly lit cabins. Unlike other restaurants, here you are served inside these small cabins that have anywhere from four to eight seats, giving you a sense of privacy. The wooden doors were painted dark brown, which was in contrast to mauve coloured chairs. It was cosy to say the least.
The restaurant is little upscale with pricing for a single dish in the range of Rs 450. But if you are smart enough you would leave it to the person waiting on you, who will suggest you lunch set menu. The set menu contains soup, nice, vegetables and meat, seaweed and pickles and costs only Rs 450.
That is exactly what I went with. For a vegetarian it was not hard as there were only three options to choose from. While I chose lunch set with assorted vegetables, my friend selected the menu that included croquettes.
As we waited for our order to arrive, a pretty North Eastern girl served as ucha tea in a pretty brown bowl. Ucha or Kombucha is a variety of fermented black or green tea. Though the origin of tea is uncertain it is said to have originated in China in 220 BCE and was introduced in Japan by a physician Kombu in 414CE. If you are wondering how it tastes, it was soothing without leaving bitter taste. My lunch date especially loved it. She could not help ask for seconds every few minutes.
Even as we were savouring our ucha tea, our lunch set arrived. What a lovely sight that was.
If you have tried Japanese cuisine before you would know that the they are little bland. They are cooked that way to bring out ‘umami’ or flavour of each ingredient. So when you are eating you will be able to savour the taste of all ingredients that goes into it rather than the collective flavour. I loved the pickled jalapeno and slight flavoured and cooked vegetables. Before now I did not know that Japanese sticky rice, sauteed assorted mixed vegetables and cooked seaweed would make an amazing combination. Since it was my first time eating seaweed I wondered what it would taste like.
I want to talk specially about seaweed dish. Though I have been to few other Japanese resturants I did not have the chance to try seaweed. For one, it is available only in Japan and more prominent in the Okinawa region. Seaweed is an important part in Okinawan palette for various reasons. It has Vitamin B12 in plenty and rich in calcium, iodine and magnesium. In an anime Oishinbo, a episode focused on why Japanese are one of the longest living people in the world. According to the anime, seaweed among others is a major contributing factor for keeping Japanese healthy. So we really cannot discount the health benefits of seaweed.
Seaweed looked like grated beetroot but a shade darker and a little sweeter than the vegetable. Contrary to my opinion that seaweed tastes bitter, it was sweet with a punch. If I could not help but savour each mouthfuls. I could taste the vinegar from the vegetables and when I ate it the rice, it was an explosion of tastes. Mild sweetness from cabbage and seaweed, bitterness from capsicum and carrot and salty and sour jalapeno made it a journey into Japanese cuisine and its five tastes.
Unlike Tamil cuisine, Japanese cuisine has five tastes – sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. The reason I loved my dish was because it had everything and I was actually able to recognise it. I think the ability to recognise is even more important.
Though sadly I could not say the same for my friend’s lunch set that contained croquettes made from mashed potato. There was not enough left to eat with rice. But overall I loved the typical Japanese-style eating experience.
What can I say, in my journey to eating Japanese food in Chennai three down and three more to go.