Fuji is the latest in a series of Thai restaurant chains to open a franchise in Laos. After much fanfare and an action-packed, star studded Grand Opening, I went to visit the restaurant last week to see what the fuss was all about. From the moment I walked in the door I found that it consistently and overwhelmingly exceeded expectations, from the first kimono-clad waitress to the last mouthful of lightning-fast sashimi. In fact, I would go so far as to say it has now firmly taken the title of my favourite Japanese in Laos, which is saying something considering there are now more than ten Japanese restaurants (and counting) to choose from in Vientiane alone.
Walking in the doors of Fuji is like stepping out of Vientiane and into a Japanese restaurant in some other city. It has been superbly designed to reflect a modern Japanese style, with just the right amount of light wood wall paneling so that it doesn’t overpower. Light tiled flooring and aluminium door frames allow brightness and lighting has been well planned to create cozy, private spaces (however some of the fittings are a little low and one of our party nearly hit his head), whilst the zen-garden at the back is an excellent finishing touch. Diners can sit at a bar and literally watch their food being prepared or eat together as a group in private rooms.
I visited Fuji on a Thursday night and found it to be almost completely full. Of course there’s a lot of hype right now because it’s a new restaurant and they are running a special promotion offering a 20% discount, but regardless, staff were tremendously efficient, remained sweetness and smiles and never broke a sweat. We were ushered to a table by a lovely lady dolled up in Japanese kimono and promptly served by a Thai waitress holding a funky little electronic device with which to take our orders.
Anyone who has visited Thailand has likely dropped in at a Fuji at some point. They can be found in almost every major shopping mall in Bangkok and around Thailand, with 72 outlets in total. A recent Vientiane Times article quotes Fuji Group’s president Mr. Kenji Tanaka as deciding to open in Laos after hearing about the growing demand for Japanese food; well I could have told him that for free! According to the menu the chain has been in operation since 1982, giving them plenty of time to develop an efficient system. And that’s what makes the speed-of-service so spectacular: you barely have time to chew before the next dish arrives. But who could complain about that?
My party and I sat in a private room and took a long, hard look at the massive menu, eventually ordering so many items that I can’t recall the entire list. Sipping sake and Beerlao, we watched each item be expertly prepared in the kitchen across from us through a long glass window pane. Dishes that stood out were the Tako Yaki, the Seafood Grill, the Sashimi Set, California Rolls and the Teriyaki beef set. Naturally, many sets came with miso and rice and the overall quality and freshness of food, particularly seafood, are what separates Fuji from other Japanese restaurants in Vientiane.
I give Fuji my stamp of spectacular-ness for food alone, but it wins extra points for speed of service, friendliness of staff, restaurant design and overall atmosphere. I’ll be visiting again. And again. …And again. It’s fujilicious!
You can find Fuji nextdoor to the Best Western in Vientiane at 2-12 Francois Ngin St., Mixai Village, Chanthaboury District (PO box 4148), Vientiane Capital, Laos. See the Google Maps reference here. Phone 021- 254 722, opening times are 11.00-15.30 and 17.00-22.30