Update: It looks like the return of Fuji Bakery is set back another few months....again. The latest prediction is March. Bummer.
In the meantime, Taka Hirai, the fine pastry chef who many credit with making Fuji as great as it was before it closed, is back in Tokyo. Hirai sent the following in an email to me earlier this week: "I came back to Japan and working at the bakery which is Joel Robuchon in Tokyo and I try to rise up my skill." No word yet on whether Hirai will return to bake in Seattle, but it remains to be seen (and tasted) whether Fuji, without the expertise of Hirai, can reach the same level of quality as before.
Original Post: This week, after, yet again, passing by the suddenly closed Fuji Bakery (one of our Best New Restaurants last year), wishing for a curry pan, a brioche with cream cheese, a tiny sandwich on a perfect, petite French baguette, or one of those tasty, square smoked salmon jobbies I liked so much, my curiosity got the best of me. I reached out to owner Akihiro Nakamura to find out what was going on.
Nakamura closed both Fujis--including locations in the International District and Bellevue--without warning last July after French-trained baker Taka Hirai left the company. I'd also heard for some time that a new Fuji Bakery was in the works, but I hadn't heard anything about that lately, either. It was time to get to the bottom of it.
The delay, Nakamura says, is due to the retrofitting of a 2,900 square foot warehouse building on Elliott Avenue, on the west side of Queen Anne near Interbay (1030 Elliott Ave W), which will become Fuji's main production facility as well as house the third Fuji Bakery (the Bellevue bakery is located at 1502 145th Place SE; the International District one is at 6th Avenue and King Street).
There've been permitting delays, too, which have pushed the opening dates back even further. Nakamura originally aimed for the bakeries to reopen this fall (as is claimed on the Fuji website), but Nakamura now tells me we can expect all three locations of Fuji to open in mid-December at the earliest.
I know I'm not alone in suffering painful Fuji withdrawals, so I'll keep you posted if I hear more.