Restaurant: Nippon tucker

Vivienne Heller has a soba experience in laid-back Brixton
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The Independent Culture
"Sinsemilla", "marijuana", "E" - the short but vivid walk from Brixton Tube to Fujiyama, through colourful evening crowds and a chorus of car horns and whispering shadows, is the perfect entree to this hybrid restaurant. Take all you know about Japanese restaurants - pristine decor, efficiency, communal dining - and turn it on its head. Wagamama's drop-out sibling is alive and thriving south of the river.

As a pre-stag-night jaunt for my friend James, just in from South America, Fujiyama was the ideal choice, a heady re-introduction to his old stamping ground, complete with a beautiful Brazilian waitress to stave off culture shock - "I just popped in for dinner because I liked the atmosphere, and ended up getting a job here."

Certainly, all the diners looked thoroughly at home. Spiky peroxides, PVC trousers and skimpy dresses lounged and chatted at the short trestle tables like subversive pupils at school dinner.

I happily eased out of my work persona as we viewed the menu: Japanesey- South-East Asian fare - bento boxes, noodles - with curios like udon curry with angel fish. "They chop the fish up into little pieces," explained a dippy, pigtailed Japanese waitress. "Don't worry, you won't even notice it."

Ordering over, we relaxed with Saporo beers and fruit juices (heavenly combinations including melon, apple, carrot and orange), and considered the decor. I found the deep-red walls and low black ceiling a little oppressive in an Inferno-type fashion, Vince thought the whole thing someone's stoned attempt at artistic originality, but James was impressed: "Red is a superb colour for eating; highly arousing."

It was worth sparking up the senses for our range of side dishes, ordered with consummate ease by local-boy Charlie. The yaki tori (chicken on skewers) was wonderfully succulent, while the battered prawns with a tangy sauce were meaty and moreish. Only the tempura was a disappointment - greasy and insipid.

Vince's eagerly awaited angel fish udon curry had lost any exotic appeal by the time it reached the table. "Liquidised fish paste, very runny and watery," he mumbled, sadly. My Fujiyama ramen was a huge, fabulous seafood soup, with fat mussels and tender squid lurking beneath a nest of noodles. Charlie and James's yaki soba noodles, with prawns and chicken, failed on the aesthetic front but scored well on taste.

Our bill came to pounds 51 for four, which was about right for takeaway-type fare in unpretentious dive surroundings. Think Wagamama on marijuana, and you've got munchy heaven for clubbing Brixtonians.

Fujiyama, 7 Vining Street, Brixton, London SW9 (0171-737 2369)

TURNING JAPANESE

Tokyo Diner 2 Newport Place, WC2 (0171-287 8777) Simple, excellent food in soothing wood surroundings

Hamine 84 Brewer St, W1 (0171-439 0785) Cheap, authentic fare till the early hours - 2.30am on weekdays

Wagamama 101a Wigmore St, W1 (0171-409 0111) Brave the queues for functional, fresh, good-value dining

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