East Side Sushi – ★ ★ ★ ½ DVD Review
After working long, early days for little pay at a fruit cart in Los Angeles (I think, I can’t remember), Juana (Diana Elizabeth Torres) is robbed one day and has decided she needs to make a change in her life. She is also frustrated with her night job at a local gym. One day she sees a help wanted sign in the window of a sushi restaurant on her way home, and decides to apply. Having worked in restaurants before, but unfamiliar with sushi, she still feels she’s up to the challenge. Starting in the kitchen working prep and cleanup, Juana soon becomes intrigued by the culinary concept, and begins to experiment at home, recreating the restaurant’s menu with limited success for her Mexican-American family. Eventually Aki (Yutaka Takeuchi), one of the sushi chefs takes her under his wing, and helps instruct her, which pays off one busy night. Making dishes in the back room for the front house chefs, Juana yearns for more, but the restaurant’s traditionally minded owner Mr. Yoshida (Roji Oyama) doesn’t think that women should be sushi chefs, especially if they aren’t Japanese. In a feel good story, Juana learns and adapts to the ways of sushi as she struggles to overcome both the racism and the sexism of the restaurant industry. When she enters an online sushi cooking competition, will she have proven herself enough to realize her newfound dream of becoming an actual sushi chef?
There is something about food movies that seems to draw me in, even though I’m not particularly competent in the kitchen myself. I’ve never had sushi before either, but I do like Mexican food, so the premise of a Mexican woman making sushi but blending the foods and flavours of her own culture into the dishes made East Side Sushi look interesting enough to me. The story unfolded as predicted, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This wasn’t a suspense thriller and wasn’t going to have surprises around every corner. It was a feel good story that was meant to entertain, enlighten and maybe teach a little. I enjoyed the performances as well as the story and how it was told, and I’ll also admit I was pretty hungry after watching.
The film hits all the usual notes and reminds us to take chances, get out of your comfort zone and to believe in yourself. All in all, a solid little indie film that was worth watching.
Bottom Line: I still haven’t tried sushi, but I did go to a great Mexican place here in town last week.