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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Adequate Japanese Food, Authentic Japanese Prices

The persistent ring of a cellular phone echoed throughout the spartan, yet aptly decorated, Fuji restaurant, causing diners at every table to root through their briefcases to determine its source.


As it happened, the call was for my dining companion of the week, carefully chosen not for her cellular capacity, but for her expertise in Japanese cuisine. After spending two years in Tokyo, she knows her way around a Japanese menu from Teppan-yaki to sashimi, and understands the true meaning of sushi.


After a quick trip to the sushi counter, where a kimonoed Russian chef was chopping up the tuna rolls, we settled into a corner table to plot our dining strategy by the light of a paper lantern. My goal was to try a representative sampling from every section -- a little Age Mono (deep fried thing), a little Yaki Mono (broiled thing) -- a plan I quickly abandoned when I got to the Nabe Mono (thing in a pot) section. One portion of Shabu Shabu (beef and things in a pot) ran an immodest $75, and, the waitress added, the kitchen refused to commit to anything less than two portions.


I set my sights instead on the sushi counter, vetoing the eel in favor of two fresh pieces of salmon ($15) and an impressive California roll. The nori, or seaweed paper used to wrap the crab, rice and cucumber, was delightfully thin and crisp, and if it weren't for the $15 price tag I would have gladly ordered another.


Moving on to fried and broiled things, the waitress brought our tofu ($15) -- which was alarmingly gelatinous but not particularly offensive -- and a small assortment of shoydjin age ($15), battered and fried vegetables that very much resembled tempura.


Leaving a la carte territory, we wandered into the Teppan-yaki section, which offered grilled dinners ("Beni Hana style," as my dining companion put it) starting at $50. The Kobe beef ($85) -- renowned for its succulence and legendary for causing vegetarians to falter -- was particularly tempting, but I opted instead for the more modest Fuji steak ($50).


Drenched with that delightful duo -- ginger and garlic -- the meat was tender and conveniently bite-sized so as to avoid any embarrassing mishaps with my chopsticks. Served with grilled bean sprouts, the steak also came with miso soup, rice, and a few cold appetizers -- the best of which was a cold crab salad with sesame seeds. Don't be alarmed if your soup comes at the end of the meal. Your waitress has not forgotten you, but is merely observing the Japanese custom that saves the soup for last to cleanse the body of all the harmful fats consumed.


We passed on dessert after discovering that the anticipated traditional Japanese green tea, ginger and red bean ice cream we had saved room for was not to be. Instead there was the decidedly unorthodox chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Green tea -- which in my experience is always offered on the house at Japanese restaurants -- was served at the end of the meal for a startling $5 a pot.


While this sparked mild outrage at our table, it did not seem to bother the other diners -- almost exclusively businessmen who ordered glass after $7 glass of Kirin beer without batting an eye.


My apologies to the budget diner, but this place is not for you. Our one entree and assortment of appetizers still came to $131. Tune in next week for a meal that will set you back less than 50,000 rubles. But in the meantime, you can take some comfort from the fact that you could be paying the same prices in Tokyo. After all, how many times have you ordered a cheeseburger in this town, grumbling that it would have been one-tenth the price in the hometown of your choice? Fuji's prices only add to its authenticity.





Fuji, at 32 Ulitsa Bolshaya Dmitrovka (formerly Pushkinskaya Ulitsa), is open from noon to midnight daily. Tel: 200-0717. Major credit cards accepted. Nearest metro: Pushkinskaya.