2-4-1 4 Yariyamachi
Chuo Ward, Osaka
Osaka Prefecture 540-0027
+81 6 6941 2483
You’d be completely insane if you thought I was going to visit Japan without sussing out some Michelin-starred restaurants – I ended up going to five. I visited three in Tokyo, one in Kyoto and one in Osaka, the latter of which I’ll talk about here.
I was only in Osaka for two nights and after I had my fill of takoyaki and okonomiyaki, it was time to venture into three Michelin star territory by dining at Chef Tetsuya Fujiwara’s modern Spanish restaurant, Fujiya 1935. Like most Michelin-starred restaurants in Japan, Fujiya 1935 offered reasonably priced lunches. Unfortunately, lunch sessions are always booked out well in advance and in this case, I missed out. I was lucky enough, however, to score a booking for their ¥15,000 (just under AUD$150 at the time) per head dinner which, mind you, does not include the compulsory 8% service charge they’ll chuck onto the bill at the end.
Fuijya 1935 is located on a main road but its door was so well hidden (read: poorly lit) that I ended up walking past it TWICE. It was dead quiet when I crept in and no one was around.
I stood there awkwardly for what felt like forever, expecting someone to greet me. No one did. So I took a seat on the long timber bench against the wall and twiddled my thumbs like a loser.
At some point, the host appeared out of nowhere. She saw me, exclaimed ‘oh!’ and apologised profusely for not hearing me come in. She went away and returned immediately with a hot vessel of wonderfully silky and creamy mushroom soup before ushering me upstairs to the main dining room. It was the only slight hiccup in service; from that point on, everything was flawless and efficient.
Fujiya 1935’s very small dining room is all about muted colour schemes and minimalist timber furnishings – think Swedish uber sophisticated injected by Tokyo cool (even though we were in Osaka). It was a very quiet restaurant and if I was dining with a friend, I would probably find dining here very awkward. But because I was dining alone (and so were three other guys there), I happily embraced the eerie yet soothing tranquillity of this place.
Fujiya 1935’s focus is on modern Spanish flavours using the best of Japanese seasonal produce so it made sense for them to have a neat and small selection of Spanish wines with one or two from Japan. The menu only had wines by the bottles but if you asked nicely like I did, the guys here are more than happy to pour you just one glass if that’s all you wanted to drink.
My second amuse bouche was the fresh radish served on a slab of ice with real dirt. It came with a lovely wasabi cream that was super silky with the slightest kick. Although I was initially ‘err’ about being served a single raw radish at a restaurant, I understood what all the fuss was about – the radish was insanely crispy and fresh, nothing like any radish I’ve had before.
Having said that, I’d happily swap this course for something else if I returned to Fujiya 1935 because screw radishes.
My final amuse bouche was a sponge bread, a signature of Fujiya 1935 – but one that changes every now and then. Today, it was a chestnut sponge bread topped with whipped ricotta – it gloriously melted into nothingness as soon as I bit into it.
Next, I had the roasted peanuts served with the Kuromoji leaves they were cooked in. Like the radish course, it was a dish that was meant to showcase how wonderful the prime ingredient was. The peanuts themselves were sweeter than your average supermarket nuts and the leaves imparted a lovely herby and smoky flavour. Once again, I got what they were doing but c’mon, I wanted to see some actual cooking and taste combinations of wonderful flavours rather than attempt to appreciate the one ingredient, no matter how amazing it was! It almost felt like I was being jibbed. A three Michelin star restaurant should be lauded for its cooking, not how well they can forage for super amazing ingredients. (although the latter is important too, I get that)
They did it again with the mushroom. Yup, it just a single mushroom. I liked this one better than the radish and peanuts though – partly because I love mushrooms in general and partly because it was delicately fried so it came out beautifully crispy. The matsutake is a Japanese pine mushroom that is available during the cool autumn months and is a delicacy prized for its distinct spicy flavour. I could totally see that. Delicious.
The waitress simply introduced this dish as ‘wild mushroom and shrimp from Nagano’ that had been ‘cooked with no water.’ Due to the language barrier though, I couldn’t get her to elaborate but that was fine. It was essentially a light consommé with the liquid made using the natural juices of the shrimp, beef and mushrooms that appeared during the cooking process. Served with warm pumpkin bread and Japanese sesame butter, it was delicious to the very last bite. This was my favourite dish so far.
The ayu is a fish that I would see a lot during my Japan travels. Colloquially known as a ‘sweet fish,’ it is called so because of it apparently tastes like watermelon. I call BS on that – the small fish is cooked and served with its intestines so it was very bitter. As for the fish itself, it tasted like a delicate version of a mackerel but without the oiliness. I can’t say I’m a fan of the ayu, but I give mad props for the beautiful presentation of this dish, laver seaweed squares and cucumber balls and all.
We steered into heavy European territory with this mouth-watering pasta dish, surprisingly one of my favourite dishes of the night. The thin strands of pasta were are robust as the delicious cheese-flavoured sauce which was creamy without being too heavy. The fresh crabmeat injected a lovely natural sweetness while the beans added an earthy oomph.
This was another dish with very strong European influences. The soft white tilefish was cooked in a very delicate and light sauce made using the juices of the potatoes and ground cherries, both served with the fish. I also suspect that a bit of butter was added for cohesiveness too. Again, this was a delicious and well-balanced dish.
Intermission involved some figs, fresher and sweeter than any figs I’d ever eaten. My previous statements-slash-whinges about the bloody raw one ingredient dishes did not apply to the figs – they were insanely and eye-poppingly tasty.
The final dish was a well-cooked French chicken breast drizzled in a creamy mushroom sauce and served with shallots and what the waitress called ‘a Japanese potato’ (in other words, taro root). The chicken alone, covered in a neat layer of perfectly crispy skin, held so much flavour – it made me reassess my views on not ordering chicken at restaurants because I considered it to be boring (definitely not in this case!).
A lovely pear-themed palate cleanser put an end to the savoury courses. The pear came in three forms – sorbet, caramel and crisp – and was finished off with a couple of sliced grapes which you can’t really see in this photo. If this had been dessert, I would be a happy camper. It was light, refreshing and did not bog me down like a ghastly chocolate cake did.
Actually, none of the desserts did. They arrived one by one, in miniature form – enough so I could get a taste without getting that nasty feeling I normally get after eating a full-sized serving of ice cream or cake. The chestnut and coffee pudding was another fabulous dessert, served with a box of chestnuts.
Okay, I lie. There was only one roasted chestnut – the rest of the box was filled with shavings and other sorts of stuff. But it was a good chestnut, obvs. So soft, so smoky and so sweet. Definitely not so-so.
I did prefer the coffee pudding though. Topped with a delicate chestnut foam, the pudding itself was infused with a dash of rum to keep things interesting. And who could ever say no to grass jelly? (I can’t)
This passionfruit and dill icy pole was gorgeous – it was almost too cute to eat. It was another refreshing dessert, though it sucked that it was gone in a matter of seconds. It might have been small but looks were deceiving for this tiny thing was bursting with flavour with a slight hint of dill for balance. Though the whole time, I was wondering where the hell one grew passionfruit in Japan and how…
Oh yeah, the honey cake in the background was also pretty nice. Think Sri Lankan semolina love cake, but a slightly lighter version. Thumbs up.
I don’t normally rave on about restaurants’ washroom facilities but I’d like to say that Fujiya 1935 had some of the best bathrooms I’d seen in my life. The ladies’ room was decked out like a Hollywood dressing room. Check out those mirrors!
The toilet roll holder also had sanitary napkins just in case you ladies had your monthly visitor arrive during dinner service.
There were also toothpicks in case you got ayu bone stuck between your teeth. They also had toothbrushes because you may as well go the whole nine yards.
And while we’re at it, why not cotton buds in case you felt the need to clean your ears? And don’t forget the mouthwash. After all, there is a chance you might get a goodnight pash from your date at the end of the night. (though what kind of insane person would choose Fujiya 1935 as a first date venue?!)
As for the meal itself? Yeah, I can see why Fujiya 1935 got their Michelin stars. When they actually decided to combine more than two ingredients to make something that resembled an actual dish, the result was wonderful, cohesive and flawless. I also liked that they really embraced (worshipped, even) seasonal produce and did their best to showcase them beautifully. And although there weren’t many of them, the dishes that lacked in taste (okay fine, just that ayu dish) certainly covered their bases via presentation.
I would have preferred to see less radish and peanut-type ‘dishes’ but that’s just me. If it works for Fujiya 1935 and their customers, then it works and who am I to argue? Plus, their figs certainly shut me up. A meal at Fujiya 1935 isn’t for budget travellers but relative to other THREE Michelin-starred restaurants in Japan, ¥15,000 isn’t bad at all given the amount of dishes you get and the efficient and cheerful service I received on the night.