Time was short. My friend had 45 minutes to keep me company for dinner before he jetted off to Bikram Yoga, ambitiously hoping to meet girls while sweating excessively. We needed to eat quickly and relatively lightly. In my previous experiences with Fujiyama, service has been patchy and repeatedly requesting a glass of tap water is not unusual, but we decided to risk it.
It’s not surprising I keep coming back. The restaurant sits there quietly on Vining Street, with its red façade and glowing interior, and serves consistently splendid food. Flavour and colour place it seamlessly as an integral part of Brixton’s diverse cultural fabric. Queues had begun to form on this particular Monday night, and I was a bit nervous that I would be left to finish a Salmon Chilli Men all on my own. Of course, I am not sure I should admit that I pretty much know the menu by heart. In my 10-plus years in this part of the world, I have eaten at Fujiyama more times than I can remember. It featured highly when I was a student because their beef donburi was cheap and cheerful, delicious and filling. As I got older (and became gainfully employed), I could finally afford the sushi, thrilled to find decent and comparable versions of the sushi I ate as a girl, as fresh from the Pacific as it was exotic to my Oregonian taste buds.
To keep our meal on the lighter side, we focused on sushi – tuna roll, spicy salmon roll, Dancing Eel and Rainbow rolls. Three sides were thrown in just for fun: miso soup; spinach ohitashi; and agedashi tofu, where traditionally the tofu is rolled in katakuriko (potato starch) then fried. Fujiyama’s version is more of the tempura ilk, and whilst the result is light, crunchy batter over hot, silken tofu, the real flavour comes from the umami-rich dashi sauce: sweet, salty, brothy. The spinach ohitashi was less thrilling this time around, and although presented as a beautiful little hockey puck of compressed steamed spinach and garnished with fried shallots, spring onions and sesame seeds, the dressing seemed a bit sparing and the dish was a touch bland. The soup consisted of white miso, tofu and spring onions; the creamy broth warmed and satisfied to the core.
The sushi arrived and we dived in. The Dancing Eel roll was filled with avocado, masago (roe), cream cheese and cucumber, and topped with grilled eel, sesame seeds and drizzled with yakitori sauce. Hot, cold, crunchy, creamy, salty and sweet, it was a marvellous combination of taste and textures. The Rainbow roll was elegant and colourful, with layers of fresh tuna, salmon, red snapper and avocado, filled with more cucumber and masago, and a bit of crabstick and mayonnaise. Light and fresh, it was a nice balance for its more hefty eel companion. The tiny gems of tuna rolled in rice and seaweed were perfect little morsels and the spicy salmon roll was delicately piquant, with a bashful heat that perked up after the first bite. Both soaked up wasabi-laced soy sauce nicely.
Equally impressive was the service. We were in and out with time to spare. Water came when requested, as did the bill. Still relatively inexpensive, I predict Fujiyama will remain a stalwart of the Brixton dining scene long after the spotlight begins to turn its focus towards the next foodie hotspot. As I walked my friend back to the Tube, he pondered on the lightness he felt after such a substantial meal. It must be down to the quality of the food, he said. I can’t help but agree.
Meal for two including service, no drinks £43.76
Lindsay blogs at www.blondevsbland.com