Ageing cook, Wan (Fuji Tatsuya) is the chef-owner a popular local Chinese restaurant called Little Shanghai. Cooking his favourite dishes from his native Shaoxing in China, his restaurant is favourite with the regular locals which beings it to the attention attention of a department store, who wants to create a range of dishes for retail.
Their rep, widowed mother Takako (Nakatani Miki), is sent to visit Wan, but she is unable to convince him to do a deal. Persistently visiting his restaurant she tries each of the dishes and falls in love with the restaurant, whilst uncovering her own desire to learn how to cook for herself. When Wan suffers a stroke and the restaurant is threatened with closure, Takako quits her job and offers to be Wan's apprentice. Reluctant at first, Wan finally accepts, and Takako's major task is to impress some very important clients.
Admittedly not the most original plot (we've had "apprentice" story lines stretching from dance/music/singing/office/fashion students as far as you can get), this one does provides a nice twist on the idea. Not just focusing on the usual apprentice-will-succeed story, director Mihara Mitsuhiro focuses on exploring the senses. Of course, we could have done with a bit of smelly-vision and tasting the food, but being a film Mihara does his best by taking us also on a beautiful visual and aural journey, not only in the kitchen, but to different parts of Japan and Shaoxing in China as well. In many ways this is as much a cultural eye-opener as a culinary one.
The backgrounds to the characters provide for some neat and touching moments throughout the movie, and the chemistry between the actors is excellent, all brought together to complement Miharo's story and direction.
For me this was one very delightful film, tickling all my senses of pleasure, and I would be happy to revisit this establishment again any time.
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