(Little Bite) Film & Restaurant Review: Film “An” and Restaurant Yo! Sushi

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I decided to indulge in a solo Friday of cinema and food last weekend, with the Dubai Film Festival in full swing, I had my pick of art house and foreign language films. I braved the mobs at MOE, running late I sprinted past the gigantic ornaments that dangled from the central atrium and maneuvered past the Christmas band flash mob until I finally arrived the new and improved Vox Cinema. I tucked into a packed theater for An a Japanese film, dubbed culinary drama, about so much more than just the art of perfecting dorayaki, a Japanese sweet consisting of two pancakes filled with An, Japanese for red bean paste. The plot, slow and long, seemingly begins as a film about a pancake stall in the shadows of plush cherry blossom trees and unravels as a much more serious drama about secrets, love and loss. 

Set in suburban Japan, the story centers around 76 year old Tokue (Kiki Kirin) and troubled teenager Wakana (Uchida Kyara) who both take refuge at Sentaro’s (Nagase Masatoshi) tiny pancake shop. Directed by Japanese Naomi Kawase, An premiered as the opening night film at Cannes Film Festival sidebar Un Certain Regard this year and certainly deserves a round of applause for its poignant performances and magnificent cinematography. The journey of An leads Tokue to Sentaro’s shop in search of a job, after being defiantly turned down once Tokue returns with her own homemade An which secures her spot at the shop as the red bean paste aficionado. The film blossoms from there as we see Tokue, Sentaro and shop-regular Wakana develop an unlikely friendship throughout the tedious process of making red bean paste to the discovery of each person’s secrets and finally to a journey of self discovery. The plot takes a serious turn in the second half as debt, disability and despair surface in an emotional ending which leaves the characters as well as the audience moved and tragically enlightened.

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Photo Credit: IMDB

Feeling somber, I exited the cinema in need of some solitude myself, I headed over to British import Yo! Sushi after the film to reflect on the journey of An. I found myself a worlds away from suburban Japan and amidst flourescent orange upholstered booths, a bustling open kitchen and a winding conveyor belt of Japanese delicacies, there were no cherry blossom trees here. Before I had to time to reminisce about the delicious dorayaki I had seen on screen, I found myself yanking dishes off the conveyor belt in a frenzy and inquiring about the a la carte menu. I was informed that each plate was dressed in a different color indicting its price point, all cold items could be found on the conveyor belt and hot items needed to be ordered separately. There was something about the entire experience that felt like I had just stepped into McDonald’s in Times Square but on the other hand there was something exciting about the conveyor belt concept which kept me interested.

With everything from sushi, sashimi and hand rolls to fried rice, ramen and teriyaki on the menu, I settled on edamame, Kaiso Salad, a Salmon Dragon Roll, a Spicy Chicken Katsu Roll and the Miso Black Cod. Five small plates were more than enough to fill me up and restored my faith in the florescent outpost, although ironically of the five dishes I tried the two sushi rolls were my least favorite. Given the lack of casual Japanese spots in Dubai, I was pleased with several of the dishes I tried, namely the Miso Black Cod which was a lovely take on a dish usually only found in five star establishments as well as the Kaiso Salad, an upgraded seaweed salad marinated in sesame and littered with edamame and carrots. While Yo! Sushi wasn’t the peaceful solitude I was seeking, it has certainly gained my attention, it wasn’t until after I exited the mall that it dawned on me that I had forgotten to try Yo! Sushi’s very own rendition of dorayaki. It goes without saying that a follow up visit is in order very soon to see if the red bean paste pancakes are as good as they looked on the big screen.

An is screening one more time at the Dubai International Film Festival on Wednesday this week, get tickets here.

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