Fuji Japanese Restaurant

When Fuji opened in 1991, it was Budapest’s first Japanese restaurant. From an elite, residential Buda neighborhood it served pricey Japanese food that included everything from sushi to soba, from tempura to teppanyaki. Fuji quickly found a loyal following among well-heeled locals who were looking for exotic tastes in post-communist Budapest. Almost three decades later, Fuji is still around, which in restaurant years is an eternity.

Based on several visits, however, it seems to me that Fuji’s continued popularity stems more from its longevity and historical reputation (or status symbol) than the food on the plates. For example, while their sushi and sashimi variations are in-line with those served in other leading Japanese restaurants in Budapest, they come at much steeper prices (the sashimi selection costs €30). In certain cases, price points seem deeply inflated: a roll of spicy tuna maki runs €11, not to mention that there's nothing spicy about it save for the pungency of the wasabi paste.

Fuji's non-fish dishes are a bit hit-and-miss. The karaage (deep-fried chicken thigh; €8) and the yakitori (skewered chicken; €3 per skewer) felt like afterthoughts, added to the menu for sake of completeness. On the other hand, the katsudon (€10), a rice bowl blanketed in a fried egg and pieces of sliced-and-breaded pork, is excellent, as is the tamagoyaki, the famed Japanese rolled omelette. Fuji is one of the few places in Budapest that serves chawanmushi (€6), a savory, steamed egg custard with morsels of chicken thigh and shrimp, and one of the few Japanese dishes eaten with a spoon even in Japan.

Despite the inconsistent food offerings, and not even mentioning the occasionally brusque service staff, Fuji can be worth a visit if you're looking to celebrate an event in an upscale venue with fancy Japanese dishes and drinks (plenty of sake and Japanese beers are also available). Otherwise, you're likely better off in one of the other Japanese restaurants in Budapest.