Fuji Japanese Restaurant

When Fuji opened in 1991, it was Budapest’s first Japanese restaurant. Accordingly, people embraced it with that unbounded positivity that surrounded post-communist novelties at the time. Located in an elite Buda neighborhood, it quickly became the pan-Japanese restaurant that catered to Budapest’s wealthiest residents with all tastes of Japan: from sushi to noodles, fried, and skewered dishes. Almost two decades later Fuji is still around, which in restaurant years is an eternity. Naturally, one would assume they’re doing something very well.

Upon closer look, however, it seems that Fuji’s popularity has more to do with status symbol and longevity, than delicious plates. While their sushi and sashimi variations are in-line with Budapest standards, they come at much steeper prices. In some cases the price points are deeply inflated: a roll of spicy tuna maki not only costs HUF3,490 (c.€12), but there’s nothing even remotely spicy about it, except the pungency of the wasabi paste. The non-fish dishes are a little bit all over the place. The karaage (deep-fried chicken thigh) and the yakitori (skewered chicken) are so unremarkable that they feel like afterthoughts, added to the menu for sake of completeness. On the other hand, the oyakodon, a rice bowl blanketed in fried egg and grilled chicken, is outstanding, as is the tamagoyaki (rolled omelette). Fuji is one of the few places in Budapest where they make chawanmushi, this savory, steamed egg custard hiding morsels of chicken thigh and shrimp. It's a rare dish that's eaten with a spoon even in Japan.

The service staff at Fuji is brusque at best, and verges on rude. They’re neither eager to please, nor very knowledgeable about the menu, so the 12% mandatory service doesn't feel entirely deserved. Fuji continues to be the go-to Asian restaurant for many people from the neighborhood, but with the restaurant boom unfolding on the other side of the Danube, diners are better off spending their money elsewhere.