A night out with friends for Japanese fine dining…

Saigon is a big city with population of over 10 millions. There are many communities of expats working here: Europeans, Americans and of course different Asian nationals. Japanese is one of the biggest groups in Saigon, there is an area in district 1, where we find only Japanese restaurants, bars, clubs….I used to work with them, I have friends and been to Japan a lot of times. I’m happy when having a chance to discover some parts of Japanese culture, lifestyle…the bright and the dark sides. And to many my friends surprise I even got an opportunity to visit the famous Studio Ghibli and took a photo together with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki. 

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There is a long story behind this photo (!)  I’m on the left – front raw and Hayao Miyazaki on the right

How to visit the Studio Ghibli, how to meet Hayao Miyazaki, how we spent more than half day there…it’s a long story but it allowed us to see the office, the people and their creative working place, the atmosphere, to witness the creation process of the amazing  animation “My love” by talented Russian artist, Alexander Petrov. We only met Hayao Miyazaki for around 15 minutes behind the tea table and the photo section right in front of his office. He’s gently charmingly cold, softly in his speech but determinedly in his tone.

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My Love got an Oscar for a short animation film in 2008 distributed by Studio Ghibli

Ok, back to our dinner tonight, I and some old colleagues gathered with our old friend-investor, a business woman (in the center of the photo, next to Hayao Miyazaki) who had a very tough time to keep her dream to create high quality TV programs, to set up a media company but…something went wrong and too far, despite all her great efforts…everything gone with the wind. Tonight we left everything behind the door, or deep inside, just sitting together and happily enjoy our diner.

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This Japanese restaurant has only few private rooms – no public sitting area

This restaurant could be one of very few places in Saigon doesn’t have any public sitting area, they have five or six private rooms – the one above – the most occupied so the reservation requires long in advance…

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I was totally wrong when I used to think that Japanese often eat sashimi at home (!?), because to me it’s so easy – just slice and serve, but actually not, Japanese love to cook very much rather than eating cold raw fish and quite expensive. Anyway a set of super fresh sashimi should be a must when we are here!

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One of our favorite courses – super fresh sashimi 
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 Una tamago  (egg roll with fish) 
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but this is my favorite deep-fried eel roll 

Unagi is another thing I love – I always love fish, so unagi or eel is not an exception, but instead of usual unagi don (roasted eel served with rice and sweet soy sauce) we order two kinds of unagi rolls – deep-fried and with avocado!

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Avocado roll with eel 
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Quite impressive dish – fish covered in salt and roasted over a fire
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Here you go – the roasted fish
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Wagyu soba 

Talking about soba –  there was time  I didn’t  understand how people can enjoy this simple noodle served with very clean soup or even cold one. I remember my old Japanese friend took me to one soba place in Kyoto – at that time I expect something with many toppings like ramen but no – only buckwheat noodles served with clean soy-based broth, nothing else, that’s all! But that was very nice, I did enjoy it very much! Strangely!

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Most popular tempura 
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always served with miso soup
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Another popular egg custard soup – chawanmushi 
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Strawberry ice cream
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Roasted mochi served with syrup

Our talk about the future, about everyone’s plan, about the media trend and the today youth. From time to time I tried to catch in my colleagues eyes – the feeling of regret that we didn’t succeed, the sadness of the failure…but no, everything was yesterday and we need to move on. Dinner is over!

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The entrance to the private rooms …
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and the façade

Some time when I sit back and remember every stage in my career life, I feel quite funny I got several years working with a giant Korean electronic company and with my employer I keep having Korean meals, then when  I moved to an American advertising agency, we got a cook in the office so I’m back to Vietnamese dishes (Oh dear, we keep eating the same things all the times!) then when switching to the client side – an European mobile company – a mix of different cultures – European, Chinese, Singaporean, Thai, Malaysian, Indian…and finally with Japanese investors – my discovery starts from ramen to curry, from fine dining to some regional exotic foods…unforgettable memories!

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