Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fujiya, Nihonbashi (フジヤ)

Around my place, we adhere to the 'dirty is good' philosophy. This may get you in trouble in, say, India or Vietnam (where I prefer to say 'dirty is deadly'), but in Japan health standards are such that you're never going to get sick from restaurant food. Fujiya exhibits layers of steamed-on grease from long simmering of curries. It's not for the squeamish, but it's a good sign.
Even the name is sort of indicative (native speakers, please bear with me while I externalize some of the thoughts I have while walking around Nihonbashi in 35-degree heat in a suit). Fujiya is very Japanese sounding name (like 藤 the flower or 富士 the mountain or 不二 unequalled) but they've written it in katakana. This give me a feeling of artificial modernity; I have a feeling people did this a lot after the war to seem more cool and foreign. Of course, that artificial modernity has now mellowed into premature age, like the interior of the restaurant. The walls are a touch dirty, the paper is peeling, and the bathroom wouldn't pass muster on more demanding blogs than mine (watch out especially for the spout on the toilet tank - first time I've ever seen one with no fixture, so the water just shoots straight up in a small, sad fountain). Why was there a row of old Budweiser bottles on the counter where I sat? Why were the greasy, with rings of something moist collecting around their bases? The staff, I'm sorry to say, are also a bit sad and moist, lurking plaintively since there are three of them and not too many customers (at least later in the day when I was there, but there physically can't be more then 10 customers at one time).
The curry was really nice though. The Y850 B lunch brings together a bit of salad, half a boiled egg, half a naan, a cup of bean soup (thin yellow dhal curry if you like) and a plate of rice with a big crock of thick, rich curry.
The curry's the thing at a curry restaurant, and I got the bean curry, because that's what I do. (Did I ever tell you that I go vegetarian whenever I go to India? True statement. The first time, I accidentally got through a few days without eating meat, so I thought it would be funny to keep it up. After that, I just kept it up since it's pleasant to align with the tastes of colleagues, many of whom don't eat meat.)  Really, the bean curry was so thick and rich that you would have thought there was meat in it too, while the level of both spice and heat was just right for me. And the quantity, oy! Really, a good lunch despite the heat outside.

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