JAPAN and its sensual, perfectionist aesthetic has always been in my heart (perhaps even my DNA?). Over the years many Japanese places have opened up around Athens, but the one I’m staunchly loyal to is Furin Kazan on Appollonos St just a few minutes walk from Syntagma Sq. I became a big fan since the late ’90s when I worked nearby and regularly ordered take-out (usually it was Yakisoba and half a portion of maki, no sake!) as its food gave my working day a sense of joy.
After visiting Japan for a month and sampling tongue-tantalising delights, only to return feeling I would never have that authentic experience again, I eventually (maybe six days after returning) shrugged my shoulders in surrender and went to Furin Kazan in the desperate search of similar tastes. Yet upon ordering several dishes that I had relished in various Japanese cities during my trip what was earlier a cheeky fancy for accessible Asian food turned into committed love, as I realised that this place really served food that offered the delicate flavour and authenticity I craved.
Since then Furin Kazan became a favourite of mine, and although not what I would describe as an expensive restaurant (a satisfying meal made up of 3/4 dishes and a drink costs me around 50 euros), my monthly luxury that I enjoyed, by myself (for precious me-time, not from loneliness) on pay-day lunch.
The food here is classic, simple Japanese – no festive renditions or wacky bites. I’ve been going there for years (alone and with friends) and still haven’t tried more than a third of the menu, but I can highly recommend the Gyoza pork dumplings, fried on one side and steamed on the other, the avocado sumiso, slices of avocado dressed in a rich, moreish miso sauce, the refreshing wakame salad with toasted sesame and the crispy Agedashi fried tofu and the creamy fresh salmon tataki as starters, followed by Chirashi sushi, which is assorted raw fish served in a ‘box’ with sushi rice, Japanese omelet and pickles. Any of the maki dishes can be ordered in halves (at half of the original price) and there are numerous noodle and cooked meat dishes as well as tempura options as well.
The place is (even during these hard crisis years) always busy and often packed, and one of the reaffirming signs of its authenticity is that it is very popular among the Japanese community in Athens (including the Japanese Ambassador I am told) as well as tourists yearning for a real taste of home (I can relate – I would too if I were Japanese). The service is efficient, polite and friendly, but sometimes can feel a little slow. One night I dined there with a friend and we chatted happily until the place almost closed, and two ladies counted money at the back of the restaurant as we ate – this really put me off as it created the image of the owners cashing in and counting the money they’d made from their clients, which is not what one wants to see or feel when they are enjoying a nice dinner out.
NOTE: If you fancy making your own Japanese feast in Athens, you can buy Japanese ingredients in Soya (33-35 Appollonos St, just a few minutes walk from the restaurant) which has been around for 9 years, or Salamat Asian Market in Ambelokipi. Or just watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi and salivate.