@ Tokyo Diner

Tokyo Diner, an island of Japanese cooking among the Chinese crowd of restaurants in Soho, is not the right place for being unfaithful.
Mine actually wasn’t this sort of evening out – I went there with a workmate – but I seriously advise you against going there with your lover. It’s not because of the food, but because they peep at you.
How can I say that? The day after, thinking about reviewing the restaurant, its nice vegetarian Bento box – which looks like it was amazingly just come out of a manga or one of those Japanese cartoons I used to watch when I was a child – I surfed the Internet and I found its website.
But that’s horrible! By the homepage I saw the room where we had dinner the day before. Actually, at the beginning I hadn’t realized it was a web camera 24-hours working because it was quite early in the morning and the restaurant opens only at noon. I thought it was simply a picture, albeit without the high resolution you should use to advertise your restaurant.
After surfing a bit in, I went back to the homepage and I saw the waitress who served us with one of her colleagues – both strictly Japanese like all the staff as the owner Richard Hills wants – tiding up the place before opening for lunchtime.

“Oh, my God,” I though, “it means that everybody in the world can snoop around my plate!”
Fortunately, at least, there is no sound, so web-voyeurs can’t listen to our speeches – if acceptable they can understand anything in the noise of several different languages.
To strike a blow for them now, I must say that, apart from the food that is various, traditional and first-rate, Tokyo Diner has at least other three features for deserving to go there.
Firstly, they don’t want tips. It is announced in the first page of the menu, where with samurai’s authority they wrote ‘Japanese style: we do NOT take tips. Please come again and bring your friends’.
All right, also because if you persist and leave some money on the table, they give it to St. Martin-in-the-Fields’ unit for Homeless.
For them tipping is a foreign concept and they claim that since 1992, when the restaurant has opened, tips have never been expected or accepted.
Another appreciable aspect concerns the prices, not expensive at all for a place in the heart of London, which served original Japanese food instead of fake Italian pizza or burgers: Mr Hills struggles quite a lot with visas to bring here genuine Japanese chefs and some of them are only devoted to prepare sushi.
We had our dinner, drinks and Japanese tea included, for £25 and until now it remains the cheapest place where I have eaten out in London.
Saving money seems to be a fundamental part of Tokyo Diner’s philosophy and sincerely I think it’s the best way to make business, not only during credit crunch times.
Why try to diddle customers proposing them low quality food and too high prices? The most of the people are not foolish, so you’re going to do that just once and never see them again for the rest of your business life (and I don’t think it will last long).
The third thing I would like to stress is their ecological engagement or, at least, their attempt.
Tokyo Diner’s policy starts from the idea that is possible to succeed in business without damaging the environment which means they prefer sustainable sources of supply, from energy that comes from Ecocitry, a company based in Stroud, Gloucestershire, that produces energy only from wind, hydro and other renewable producers.
Secondly, they claim they don’t buy bluefin tuna, one of the most important ingredients of raw fish cookery.
Of course this second statement has to be proven – the menu doesn’t name any dish made of it, then it is a matter of trust and maybe expert taste - and, as my friend noticed, they sell water in plastic bottles, which are not very wholesome for any kind of fish when they have been thrown out in the sea.
I’m going to remember this place even for another important fact: I had there my first meal using only chopsticks, the only ‘weapon’ available for attacking food, even because if you would try to ask for cutlery the sushi-chef would come out to see if my flesh was good enough for his task (maybe bluefin tunas are risking to die out, but not silly human beings).
My handhold looked a bit handicapped, but eventually I grabbed even the last grain of rice and fortunately nobody in the world, apart from my mate, has seen that: after the first moments of displeasure, I realised that our table was out of the camera sight.

Tokyo Diner, 2 Newport Place, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7JJ.
Tel: 020 7287 8777 Website: http://www.tokyodiner.com
Open 12 till 12, 365 days a year


Encounters (and cinemas) at the end of the world

One of my Italian friends called me about one week ago: "We must go to see the last Herzog's movie! We can't miss it!"
"Ok," I answered and I went to seek it on the Internet, found an interesting trailer.
After one failed attempt (the cinema in Piccadilly published the wrong schedule!) on Thursday, eventually today we went in a cinema I could say "at the end of the world" or, at least, of London.
The Lexi Cinema is a social enterprise, based in 194b Chamberlayne Road, Kensal Rise, that claims they give the 100%of their profits to community action in South Africa.
If this could sounds quite original, the best has to come: me and my friend enjoyed an absolutely private screening and before it began one of the guys who works there come to "explain us the movie", giving us the possibility to skip it if we're not interested.
A little puzzled, we listened to him, who briefly (and nicely, I have to say, at least for his brave) introduce his 'social enterprise' and the movie, and let it starts.
It was the first time I went to watch a Herzog's movie and I think it's worth.
This time he went to Antarctica to shoot a docu-film about people who live and work there.
South Pole hosts nowadays a thousand od men and women - volcanologists, biologists, physicists, but even philosopers, linguists, travellers and refugees - that develop cutting-edge scientific researches.
Say that the images, especially those shot in the water under a thick layer of ice, are amazing it's almost banal, but what really make the viewer surprised it's discovering how much (beautiful) forms of life are under and above the pack ice.
But Antarctica is not just water in its different states, but also volcanos, penguins, seals... and professional dreamers. Yeah, exactly, professional dreamers, that's the definition of people who are there given by the philosoper Stefan Pashov, who is one of them and at present drives a digger.
Herzog gathers the most various collection of people and the best label you can give them it's just this: professional dreamers. Like anyone who hard-works and enjoys his passion until extremes, they get, deserve and fetch in this tag and it's easy to feel them close to you.
That's why, ultimately, it deserves to see what happens off the map, at the end of the world.


Il Divo – The spectacular life of Giulio Andreotti

Giulio Andreotti always looks calm, inscrutable and, above all, powerful.
He has been one of the most influential Italian politicians, whit a career that started in 1948 when he was elected for the first time at the age of 29.
Il Divo tells of a part of his 40-year career, between 1991 and 1993, when Andreotti was head of government for the seventh time and he was going to be investigated for suspicious links with the mafia.
Watching this outstanding movie, just one doubt comes up: will it be enough to make sense to the British audience?
There are two sorts of difficulties. Firstly, Andreotti is a man who seems incomprehensible even to his wife and his closest collaborators.
He is known by Italian people with several nicknames like ‘Divo Giulio’, which comes from Julius Caesar and means the importance of his authority, or ‘Beelzebub’ because of his alleged mafia links, but nobody has been able to pin him down totally.
Secondly, the movie aims at emphasizing his potential involvement in many important and dark happenings of Italian recent history, like mafia murders, terrorism and scandal bound up with Freemasonry, that are not clear either for many Italian people.
The director Paolo Sorrentino, who shot
The Consequences of Love in 2004 and The Family Friend in 2006, portrays Andreotti like the personification of power, through the reconstruction of his meetings with mafia boss and high points like when he accepts to be nominated as President of Republic.
Thanks to the masterly performance of Toni Servillo, which won him the European Film Award, Andreotti - who is now senator for life since 1991 - is represented as a man who lives alone with his power and who lives for it, to the point of saying during a final monologue “you sometimes have to do evil in order to do good”.
So he appears as quiet as strong on taking his decision, as devout as calculating when he thinks about what he has to do, as fatherly with his voters as astute on achieving his purposes.
Like in a sort of revenge against a powerful man famous for his ironic sharp tongue, Sorrentino even enjoyed himself showing Andreotti, who served as Primer Minister seven times and 25 as minister, in a ridiculous way like when her secretary told him to stand erect despite being hunchbacked.
Il Divo is an intense movie, with a fast-paced editing that catches the most inattentive member of the audience, though the story demands at least a slight knowledge of Italian recent history to be comprehensible.
The jury of the Cannes Film Festival awarded
Il Divo with its special price in 2008: maybe it is going to have seconds with the British audience.

Il Divo: 2008, Italy/France, Articial Eye, 110 mins, Biopic, in Italian with English subtitles. Director: Paolo Sorrentino.


It exists!

Do you remember the movie 'Notting Hill'? Well, I found the bookshop - the Travel Bookshop - that was runned by Hugh Grant. Nothing new, of course, the movie is quite old, but the place is worthwhile a visit, if you like this sort of thing.


On Sunday Morning

I like London on Sunday morning, when you ride in a bus to the city centre and there is no traffic jam.
When you can see the "true" Londoners (or at least they get used to being) walk around slowly, with no aims, just stopping to go in some corner shop to buy a take-away cup of coffee (those tall and brown cups of coffee with a plastic white cover) or to buy a newspaper.
When as you get closer to the city centre you see couple of tourist go around equipped with a map and glance around seeking for a museum, a monument... who knows?
I like London on Sunday morning and its look so relaxed where each neighbourhood seems to be a small quiet town which the nature of a great city.


Lesson no.2: Something can make your life easier

DIGESTIVES: this is the first step to enjoy some great aspects of British food (it could sound incredible for someone, but it's absolutely true, trust me!). You can choose among "standard" digestives, dark chocolate digestives, milk chocolate digestives, chocolate chip digestives. Taste them with a cup of tea or coffee (and actually I think that instant coffee whit a drop of milk is not so bad) or just alone (as I'm doing now). An intense scent of chocolate hit my smell just opening packaging... that's marvellous!
A revelant advantage living in a English speaker country is public television broadcasts a lot of good movies you probably watched only on the cinema: DUBBING doesn't need here and it is really a big chance!
They are very
TECHNOLOGIC: you can find websites that work as they have to, you can find how to contact a person you need to talk to, you can pay fines and local taxes by Internet, you can apply for joining the closest library, you can check if tube is working well and if not find an alternative way... Do you need more?
WI-FI BROADBAND connections are the rule and one of my housemate told me they are even free and you can work outside in the parks during summertime (I have to verify it).
SUPERMARKETS (again!) are open 7/7 and during the week from 7am to 11 pm.
To be continued...