Literally meaning “Everyday Cafe,” Fudan Cafe is tucked away in an alley just down from the main streets in Utsunomiya. A block away people are lining up for Masashi and Minmin gyoza restaurants, but this place brings one Japanese word in particular to mind: mattari, or something along the lines of “relaxing,” “laid-back,” and “spacious,” but which also has another meaning: “flavorful and full-bodied.”
The cafe is spacious with a smoking upstairs and non-smoking downstairs, with booths and chairs and sofas with low coffee tables dotted around the floor space. You are greeted at the door with the dessert display case showcasing dozens of potential sugary indulgences. I chose to sit down at one of the couches and started to flip through the menu.
The first thing I notice is a little ringed notepad-like menu which displays the dessert options with a flavor to suit any taste–chocolate cake, strawberry tart, matcha ganache, orange creme brulee, Mont Blanc, caramel banana cheesecake–the list goes on. They have an afternoon special where you can order a dessert with a drink and get 100 yen off (good to know), but I came for dinner, and opened the main menu to find something more substantial.
Speaking of substantial, the entree menu was exactly that. Same as with the dessert menu, you can come with any type of person, and they should be able to find something they like. They have lists of soups, sandwiches, pizzas, rice-based dishes, pasta, meat and fish, and so on (even breakfast and a happy hour for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks), which each category hosting on average about 7-8 items, some very Western-sounding (a BLT, for example), some very Japanese sounding (fried rice with eel, potherb mustard, and jasmine), and some very fusion-like (bacon kimchi cream pasta). I decided to go for something that could hit all three of those categories: Thai-style omelet rice.
When my order came, I knew I didn’t go wrong. It was basically your typical omelet rice (fried rice covered in an omelet-like egg), and the Thai influence came in with the shrimp in the rice and the chili pepper sweet sauce on top. It also had some bacon in it. I can’t say it was the absolute best omelet rice I’ve ever had in my life, but it was definitely good, and in a pretty heaping portion. Therefore, after looking at the dessert menu, I pulled a Japanese faux-pas and scooped the leftover 1/3 into the Tupperware I had emptied and cleaned at lunch at work when the waiters weren’t looking, and commenced to order the orange creme brulee, which was also very good. It was a bit pricy (500 yen), although I don’t believe you’ll find anything cheaper than that here. It was served slightly chilled but not cold, and the orange flavor came in the slightly zesty burnt top layer, but was otherwise so subtle you might not notice it if you weren’t alerted to it beforehand. It was very good.
The wait staff were also good. There was one woman and one man. The former took my first order, and the latter went around filling up water glasses every now and then. They were attentive without being overbearing or nosy. When you sit down, they also place a candle with a revolving metal case that’s hard to explain, but also pretty cool and adds to the atmosphere. The menu has everything translated into English, which while not being perfect, is pretty understandable and accessible even if you can’t read Japanese (the specials board up front is Japanese only, however).
Since the menu is as wide as the space in the restaurant, this place is well-suited for big groups and get-togethers or a date–so basically anything. Even alone, I would definitely come again.
Hours of operation:
Mon.-Sat. 8:30 am – 12:30 am
Sun. & Holidays: 8:30 am – 20:30 pm