Samui Wining & Dining
Happy Birthday Fuji !

Thailand’s best-know Japanese restaurants continue to deliver exceptional value for money.


17Thailand is a proud nation. And, throughout the ages, the country’s retained its identity. History tells of ancient border battles. But Thailand has never been colonised. The Thai culture remains intact and habits, traditions, and customs have developed with integrity. Each of the main regions has it own clear sub culture, with the elements of dialect, traditions and cuisine remaining clearly defined. Yes, Thailand is a nation that’s remained mostly unaffected by outside influences – except when it comes to food, that is!

    Even back in the golden days of the royal court and the palaces of Ayudhaya, the only things that were eagerly accepted from foreign traders were foodstuffs. Spices and herbs from the Indies. And – oh yes! – the fiery chilies from the Americas. Thus, a century or so later when these edible treasures filtered out from the royal kitchens, the ordinary Thai people seized on them with relish. And the same thing happened all over again in the 1960s and 70s. When those big golden arches first appeared in Bangkok, there was something of a fast food riot and, over the next two years, another 22 branches were quickly opened.

      This isn’t quite as odd as it might seem. All Thai food is ‘fast food’ in comparison to the Western traditions of boiling, braising, roasting and baking. And, when you start to compare prices, it’s actually not that much more to go and eat somewhere really ‘swish’. Well, compared to an open-sided Thai restaurant with a tin roof and plastic garden chairs, anyway. That’s why the first American-style fast food chains were such a success. And it’s also why, a generation later, the introduction of a chain of Japanese restaurants known as Fuji were accepted with similar enthusiasm.

In short, when you enter
a Fuji Japanese restaurant
you’ll know in advance
exactly what to expect.


      But that’s only a part of the story. Just try Googling ‘Japanese restaurants Bangkok’. There must be a million or more! And it doesn’t take much figuring-out to realise that the majority of these are highly exclusive, and evidentially aimed at foreign tourists. It’s a minefield, and not one that your average Thai gastronome would confidently venture into, even if it was affordable. However, as with all folks everywhere, the image of something familiar is comfortably reassuring. In the same way as Thailand’s admirable Black Canyon Coffee houses immediately declare their affordable identities, so does Fuji. In short, when you enter a Fuji Japanese restaurant you’ll know in advance exactly what to expect.

       Studies have revealed that, next to sanuk, (roughly translated as ‘such good fun that I can’t be bothered to go back to work this afternoon’), Thai people love to eat. The normal Thai adult gets this urge, on average, every 27 minutes and it’s not uncommon to see people in uniform, or working in banks, with a polystyrene container and little white fork not too far away. And so when it comes to eating out – meaning something a bit more special than the corner noodle stall – they are instinctively drawn to Fuji. It’s ‘up-market’, the food’s affordable and delicious. You can eat à la carte or order ‘sets’, and even study the wonderfully-realistic models of the dishes in the window beforehand to see what things look like. Fuji now has more than 60 outlets all over Thailand (many of them situated in Bangkok) and is steadily adding to this number. The majority of them are located in malls and shopping centres, where you are guaranteed to have an in-house crowd, after all. Samui’s first Fuji was enthusiastically received in Chaweng’s Tesco Lotus. But, interestingly, it’s now also ventured into a second branch, right in the middle of Chaweng Beach Road.

      Fuji restaurants are characterised by being bright, clean, busy and comfortable. They consistently serve excellent food, from sashimi and sushi to tonkatsu and tsukadashi. The food is fresh and there are around 100 different menu options, each with a photograph alongside so you can see what you’re going to get. The décor is also attractively themed, with lots of Japanese photos on the walls and bamboo panels. The entire ethos is alluringly cheerful. And that also applies to the service you’ll receive, too, you’ll attract service with a smile.

      Bobby Preston is an Arkansas American who’s been living on Samui with his Thai wife for the last 12 years, and he reckons to eat at Fuji on average once a week. “Fuji makes Japanese food for the rest of us,” he philosophised, reflecting on his experiences with restaurants in Tokyo. “You won’t find the ceremony and the traditional approach to leisurely dining here. But I’m more than happy with that. Fuji has mastered consistency. You’ll get the same food at any Fuji restaurant, regardless of whether you’re at Siam Square or Samui Tesco. The food always tastes the same, and this is a good thing as it invariably tastes great. I have to mention the miso soup. It’s ecstasy. I usually prefer the steak and pork dishes, especially the Kuro Buta Steak set, which includes perfectly-done asparagus spears, carrots and mushrooms. I order the same dishes every time that I visit a Fuji and my wife orders her favourite sashimi, and we’ll receive the same excellent food regardless of wherever we are. This sort of reliability is why there’ll usually be a queue to get into a Fuji and why the restaurants are always busy.”

      I had planned to write more – but Bobby seems to have covered everything! What else is there to be said? Except for ‘happy birthday’, maybe? At the time of writing the Fuji chain was busy blitzing Facebook with celebratory statements and photos of food. They’ve been going for exactly 30 years now – and that’s quite an achievement in anybody’s book!


Rob De Wet


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