Yet Con Restaurant on Purvis Street, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, and Living God’s Way
It seems to me that hardly anything about Yet Con (“since 1940”. 25 Purvis Street) has changed over the decades. The signboard, the wording on the flanking pillars and that particular font on the aluminium-framed glass doors, the position of the man chopping succulent chickens on an old wooden block, to your left as you enter,
then the white-haired man who oversees the whole operation of the restaurant with an eagle-eye from behind his cashiers’ desk (complete with retro orange pay phone, ancient safe, and abacus at the ready), shouting instructions in Hainanese, and as new orders are made, writing hieroglyphics on pieces of paper neatly lined up and held in placed with binder clips. He does not seem to have aged a day since the 1980s, in his immaculately-pressed white short-sleeved shirts.
Adding to the atmosphere of nostalgia, discarded eggs shells on the linoleum floor, and the garlicky kick of the chilli sauce, and the depth of flavour of the soup that isn’t just all about the Aijinomoto.
Woah, this is the first time I’ve seen a menu.
The next day, Jiro Dreams of Sushi opened in Singapore. 83 minutes of the whole cinema collectively sucking in their breath (and drool) as sushi after sushi was precisely made and placed on a black enamel platter, the fish coming to rest on top of the rice with brushed sauce dripping from it in slow motion.
Jiro Ono, the subject of David Gelb’s film, started Sukiyabashi Jiro – a ten-seater, sushi-only (as in, “no appetisers; sushi only”) restaurant in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo. It has been awarded three Michelin stars several times over. The secret of Jiro’s success was that there were no secrets. Sure, the seaweed had to be toasted over charcoal, and the rice was special and had to be subject to a certain amount of pressure and kept at a certain temperature, and the fish was obtained from the best dealers at Tsukiji market (the tuna for example was obtained from a tuna merchant who only sold tuna and was an expert in the fish), and the octopus was massaged for 40-50 minutes (up from 30 minutes) to make it soft, and the fish had to be aged and then sliced in a certain manner at a certain thickness etc.
It was merely repeating the same tasks over and over again every day (with breaks on national holidays) and trying to make sushi more delicious the next day that enabled him to reach such a high standard. The raving Japanese food critic featured in the movie said that he had never had a bad experience with Jiro. He could go expecting that every time, it would be consistently perfect.
Would Jiro’s two sons live up to his high standards? The director cunningly attempts to create this tension/suspense by interviewing various parties, who shake their heads gently or try to be politely optimistic. Then there was a little surprise at the end concerning the authorship of the sushi placed before the Michelin inspectors…
As Christians, our passion and obsession is pleasing God, and God’s standards are higher than that of any Michelin inspector or self-driven perfectionist. If we had no hope of changing from our old anti-God ways, then our lives would be pointless tragedies. Thankfully, this is not the case.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2)
The same grace of God that brought us salvation also trains us to live God’s way, because this was the purpose of Jesus’ death in our place. Therefore we are not left bereft and without divine help. Yet, this does not mean we sit around and not do anything – because if we are really passionate about pleasing Him, then we would be even more obsessed about godliness than Jiro is about sushi.