A Japanese Tradition in Cebu

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Friday, August 22, 2014


A CHANCE conversation several thousand feet in the air led to a long-standing friendship and business venture.

So describes Carlostito Gothong of how his father met Japanese businessman Hideo Goto on an international flight. Goto turned out to be from the second of three generations that have owned and operated Japanese cake shop Fujinoya for the past 50 years. A decade since that first encounter, Fujinoya has opened its doors to the Filipino public with its first shop outside Japan, right here in Cebu.

Although the bistro is not exactly a franchise, all of their cakes and pastries use recipes given by Fujinoya Japan. Carlostito and his business partner, executive chef Khristina Lim, explain that Japanese cakes and pastries are simplistic and light. They are not overloaded with sugar, not too sweet and, going with the Japanese concern for balance, no single taste overpowers another in every recipe.

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The cafe has only been open for a few weeks, but already the kitchen has to work double-time to keep up with a conservative average of 150 customers daily. It has been attracting repeat customers, including Japanese nationals who have commented that the pastries indeed taste like home. The peak hour is 9 p.m., so be patient if you decide to come at this time. Visit between 11 a.m. and 12 noon and get 50 percent off on selected pastries.

The crowd favorite is the Fujinoya special chocolate cake. The strawberry roll and tiramisu have their own following, while the mango mousse, Gateau chocolate cake, Japanese cheesecake, unbaked cheesecake, and shortcake in strawberry, kiwi and mango are also selling well. The cafe also makes delightful orange cookies, and chocolate almond cookies that pair wonderfully with coffee.

As a coffee connoisseur, Carlostito is very particular about how the coffee is made at the cafe. “There’s a science to coffee,” he explains. “Our advantage here is really in our technique.” He makes an effort to train each barista to create the perfect cup of coffee. The cafe offers a 50 percent discount for the second and onwards cup of hot coffee.

Also wanting to serve hot food, Carlostito and Khristina created their own dishes with a Japanese twist. After months of tasting, trial and error, they have come up with a few well-executed short orders. Bestsellers include the wasabi burger, tonkatsu with Japanese curry, and teriyaki ribs.

You’d be hard-pressed to find much store-bought food at Fujinoya. Nearly everything is made from scratch. Even the milk is brought in farm-fresh everyday. It’s a lot more work than just serving ready-made food, but they wanted to serve the best quality possible. “When you cook something, it’s your character that comes out in the taste of the food,” Khristina says, with her background in culinary school.

Fujinoya is located on Wilson St., Lahug, and is currently on soft opening from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. They are working on opening earlier to cater to the breakfast crowd. By the time they have their grand launch in November, the cafe will have more offers in store for customers, such as a 20-seat function area and 15 additional cake and pastry recipes from Fujinoya Japan.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 23, 2014.

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