What was originally called Fujiwara restaurant dates back to 1935, with its current owned and head chef, Tetsuya Fujiwara (born 1974), being the fourth generation of the family to be chef here. He and his wife trained in Europe, mostly Spain, before returning here. He commissioned artists to make special plates for each dish, giving a sense of Japanese tradition even though he is cooking modern food. Mr Fujiwara trained at Le Francescana in Italy, and then ‘L'Esguard’ in Spain, before taking over the reins in the kitchen in 2003. The original incarnation of the restaurant was a dining hall specializing in udon noodles, but in 1957 it switched to serving western food, and changed its name to Fujiya, with 1935 hinting at the history of the original family restaurant.
Fujiya 1935 is on a busy shopping street in Osaka. You enter through a discreet entrance to a waiting area, and then head to the dining room upstairs past the kitchen. The room was quite sparsely decorated, with white walls, wooden floor and a few ornamental small tree trunks along one wall. Tables are generously spaced and laid with white linen. The cuisine is modern Spanish. The first food to appear was a baked orange, whose texture inside was quite powdery, so presumably the kitchen has been playing with their Thermomix. Beside this was a burdock twig, which did not taste of very much and was presumably there to add some firm texture. The orange was fine, but I am not sure anything was achieved by all the culinary trickery here (14/20).
More successful was a further textural experiment: pea purée was placed inside what appeared to be a green sponge, which was actually bread which had far more bubbles than usual to give the sponge effect. In this case I could see a point to the wizardry, as the texture of the bread was an interesting contrast to the quite intense pea purée (17/20). Next was a white asparagus flan with orange purée, and a little olive oil and rock salt. The flan had plenty of asparagus taste, and the purée had smooth texture, but I am just not sure what the orange really added here (15/20).
At this stage warm bread appeared, a pair of white crusty rolls presented in a smart wooden box, the base of which had a hot stone to keep the bread warm. The bread itself was lovely, with airy texture and a good crust (18/20). This was accompanied by Japanese smoked butter. This was followed by shrimp wrapped in kadaif pastry, a relative of filo. The shrimp had lovely flavour and was perfectly cooked, the little layer of pastry filaments adding a pleasing textural contrast. On the side of the prawns was light curry oil, bringing a gentle hint of spice (18/20). This dish was strongly reminiscent of a prawn with angel hair pasta dish that I had eaten at Lucas Carton in Paris almost two decades ago, showing that there is little that is truly new in the world of food.
The next dish was managatsuo (butterfish), served with wild foraged leaves that had a slightly bitter taste, watercress and a burdock crisp. The fish itself was excellent, the leaves a little too bitter to my taste (16/20). This was followed by spaghettini with shrimp and egg powder, with a few pieces of shrimp, courgette and bacon lurking in the pasta. The pasta itself was beautifully delicate, but the dish was served cold, when surely this would have been much nicer served hot (15/20). Duck with asparagus was simple and good, the duck cooked pink and having lovely flavour, the asparagus of high quality (17/20). My wife tried amadei fish with asparagus and an orange sauce, which was a little like eating your fish with marmalade. Again the fish was timed beautifully, though the sauce was an odd accompaniment (16/20).
The first dessert was kumquat with coconut, with a thyme ice cream. The kumquats were slightly caramelised and worked well with the coconut. I am always sceptical about desserts containing shrubbery, but the thyme ice cream was very well made and did taste distinctly of thyme (16/20). I much preferred almond cake with apple sauce and little cubes of apple, the almond cake warm and comforting, the apple providing a little balancing acidity (18/20). Service was friendly, dishes actually being brought up from the kitchen by the chefs, which was a nice touch. The bill came to ¥15,650 for two with a little beer, which works out at £59.50 a head. This seemed to me a bargain for what was delivered.