It is interesting, first, as a curiousity, for Americians living outside of New York or Los Angeles are not likely to have a chance to sample Japanese food. But the Rashomon is also genuine. The food is prepared as it should be, served as it should be, and offered in surroundings that enhance its attractiveness.
Of course, Japanese cuisine is generally ranked among the world's best. Sukiyaki, though, is not properly a typical Japanese dish; for one thing it was unknown in Japan until about sixty years ago. Also, one meal of sukiyaki contains more meat than the average Japanese eats in a year. Yet this delicious combination of sliced beef and vegetables is immensely popular in Japan today and is unquestionably the most famous Japanese food. The Rashomon serves it as it is served in Japan: a large platter of attractively arranged slices of raw beef and various vegetables is brought to the table with an electric skillet in which the ingredients are cooked. Patrons are even invited to manage the operation themselves, and a sukiyaki dinner can thus be much fun for several persons.
The other well-known item on the Rashomon's menu is tempura-- large shrimp and vegetables deep fried in a crisp coating. Many restaurants in Japan serve only tempura, which is considered a supreme delicacy. The Rashomon preparation compares quite well with what one can get at a fine tempura house in Tokyo.
With these dinners the Rashmon provides excellent soups (either a sparkling clear broth or a heavier beancurd soup), Japanese pickled vegetables, rice and vokan (Japanese beanjelly) for dessert.
The menu is decidedly small, but perhaps this is not objectionable in a restaurant that serves such exotic fare. Considering the size of the portions, however, the Rashomon is expensive; a dinner for two will probably cost about $7.00. Sukiyaki is sufficiently filling, but one may leave the table after a tempura meal wanting just a little something more.
Because the Rashomon has very little space, one does well to make reservations in advance. In the pandemonium of the first weeks, the restaurant had a tendency to accept all reservations, and this led to many people being turned away at the door who had been assured of tables. Apparently, the proprietors have now realized that this is not the way to run a restaurant.
These defects are amply compensated by the atmosphere in the Rashomon. Lovely waitresses in kimono add to the pleasantness of the meal, and some low Japanese-style tables are available at which diners sit crosslegged on cushions. One can even get personal instruction in the use of chopsticks, and if, afterwards one still fishes vainly for a piece of tofu in the sukiyaki, a smiling waitress will give assistance.
The Rashomon is not only for adventurous eaters. It serves excellent food in pleasant, interesting surroundings, and is a fine place for dinner before attending some cultural presentation in Cambridge. It is, in short, well worth a try.
Taking, as is our custom, the generous view, we would say that the movies in town this week are all as good as they can be. In most cases, we would add, with out customary solicitude for the truth, that, with one exception, this is not very. For example, at the Brattle (TR 6-4226), Queen of Spades,though lavishly photographed, is only as good as a not-so-hot Tchaikovsky opera can be; at the Exeter (KE 6-7067), Robert Dhery plums not very tantalizing depths in a movie which is as good as a movie about a car can be; at the Astor (LI 2-5030), EI Cidstars(unbeknownst to itself: it has pretensions to being as good as a movie about EI Cid could be) magnificent Spanish scenery; at the Orpheum (LI 2-3491), Sergeants 3 is as good as routine tastelessness and flatness always is (good like soma), despite the most violent exertions of the Clan to make something more of it; and, at Keith's Memorial,Rock Hudson and Doris Day, in Lover Come Back are not as good as the song whose title they stole can be when Ella sings it.
Brighter spots on the filmap this week are the Gary (LI 2-7040) and Saxon (LI 2-4600),where West Side Storyand Judgement at Nuremberg continue, undiminished in stature (or length, helas; the Beacon Hill (CA 7-6676) where the not wholly successful, but not wholly unsuccessful One, Two, Threemay be seen; and our own UT (currently called the Harvard Square Theatre), where The Hustler should be seen.
Indiscriminately, as is our wont, presenting everything available with the generous assumption that you yourselves will choose the greatest and the wisest and the best among them, we list the following egregiously overrated films which we don't know why we bother to list them. Viz., At the Kenmore,they are showing a movie which someone thoughtfully went to the trouble of making from Arthur Miller's worst play, A View From the Bridge; who knows why (but don't get us wrong; we love Hollywood). At the Fenway (KE 6-0610),we would revert to our former mode of discourse to note that The Markis as dull as a film about a leching Humbert-type can be. Finally, at the Sack (CO 7-9030), Rosalind Russell and Alec Guinness reek of Absence de Gout (perfume and toilet water respectively) in A Majority of One.
Enlarging, as is our practice in these columns, your filmic horizons, we direct your attention to the Hub's suburbs (say that aloud and you will have created something): by and large, you will find there the best for less. Let us instance forth the green vales of Needham; at that town's Paramount Theatre Jacque Tati's Mon Oncle is paired, in a manner of speaking, with the great School for Scoundrels. Again: Dorchester's Adams Theatre (GE 6-2080) has two fine dramas on tap, Picnicand Psycho, neither of which is easily forgotten, if for widely differing reasons. Finally, you may still catch Day at the Races and Meet Me in St. Louis by hustling over to the Circle at Cleveland Circle.
NOTE: The Exeter will get out of the doldrums with a vengeance when Age-the Christie's Murder (She Said), a lovely movie starring the uncontainable Margaret Rutherford, opens there this week-end.