Can you imagine a restaurant where there would be a money box at the entrance, where you would put upon your arrival the amount you would like to spend on food? No one would know how much you are depositing. The attendants would also serve you at their discretion. How would they decide? Maybe based on the fact that they would remember which guest liked what. Age would certainly be a good guide as well. Or they could offer food according to the guest’s body volume. To help him truly benefit. How satisfied would the guests be with what they would receive? And would the restaurant survive? I wonder.
Funny beginnings of Miyabi
You’ll be surprised, but that’s how Miyabi started twenty-six years ago. The difference is that the guests put their money into the box only when they were leaving. Why I offered this system to our guests? We were exotic to the restaurant market. Nobody knew Japanese cuisine very well. The guests could not even imagine what they would eat in our restaurant. And me? Us? We were not confident, almost shy. We improvised. We didn’t have Japanese proper materials, certainly not enough and not everything we needed. When I went to Japan, I filled my luggage with nori, kombu seaweed and katsuobushi, just about anything that was light and long. All for Miyabi. Good quality sea fish were not enough. Once a month we traveled to Vienna to shop at Japan Food Company. My staff quite liked it because they combined the trip with sightseeing. It was impossible to do the round trip with all the customer work in one day. Friendly restaurant owners came to us from Japan for short tourist sightseeing trips, and their task was always to taste our entire menu and advise us. It was a great help.
And what kind of guests came to eat our food? All brave people, and I must say that mostly artists. Actors from Semafor theatre, filmmakers, singers, photographers. In fact, some of our employees were philosophers or artists. The only real professional was the Miyabi manager, very practical man who kept us all in line and moderation. I was an enthusiast who brought in the idea of omotenashi hospitality inspired by the art of the Japanese Tea ceremony and spontaneously searched for a way how to bring it in life. The Japanese experience appealed to me so much that I couldn’t help but share. When I think of those times in the second half of the 1990s, I have a wide smile on my face. It was great time!
Old dishes at old prices
Miyabi is still led by the same man after twenty-six years. He likes to look back – to our first years of operation and then to the golden times of the early twenty-first century. With less emotion, he talks about the last decade, when it is difficult to withstand diverse competition of restaurants that poped up on the market. What is he thinking now that we are affected by the current Take away window operation? He has not given up. He constantly comes up with ideas on how to motivate guests to do their orders. On his computer he keeps careful document system of Miyabi activities and menus, and it is indeed he who suggested that we offer you Miyabi retro meals at the prices of the authentic old times. I know many of you have been with us for a quarter of a century, and you may want to enjoy good memories too. But we also have many guests who discovered Miyabi later or even recently. For them, a bare retro would probably lack charm. It would be just food without the achievements of today. With this in mind I wondered what if I would honor the retro food idea and at the same time enrich it, so that it would be interesting for all the guests of Miyabi. The comparison may be also a good thing to enjoy. The idea drew me in and here is the result.
Our old time guests sometimes ask about our then Miyabi carrot cake. So our manager recommended this very goodness for his retro recollection. I agreed to do it, but I suggested to use daikon instead of carrot. Why? Because today daikon is a well-known material almost like our ordinary old carrot. And just as twenty years ago it was avant-garde to make a carrot cake, it seems avant-garde to make a similar cake, but to let the daikon radish shine. After all, Japanese desserts are made of legumes, vegetables and fruits. We had to play with the challenge, but I think we managed to make our daikon cake with a vanilla-bean filling quite a good desert. We offer it for the same retro price as carrot cake in 1997.
Another retro dish suggested by the manager was oshizushi with smoked salmon. 3 pieces for 105 CZK. The price is tempting, but what about the content? Well, in the beginnings of Miyabi we had a good reason why we did oshizushi with smoked salmon. It was smoked because raw was not allowed according to the official hygiene of the time. Nobody believed raw fish. In addition, great fresh salmon could not be easily bought. And because the chefs maybe weren’t skilled enough yet, they made sushi in the shape of oshizushi. They added parsley and wrapped sushi block in nori seaweed. After all the result was not so bad, as declares the photo from magazine Labuznik. Oshizushi are sushi, where rice is pressed together with something lightly fermented. Just to be sure. We could add smoked mackerel for example, as there was a lot of it at stores. Or sour herring.
To innovate our retro oshizushi just by using raw salmon instead of smoked meat, we would not surprise you. And it’s a surprise and new experience what you like to enjoy. Do you? Our novoretro oshizushiwill be with smoked salmon and fresh salmon at the same time. It tastes great! We will use special home smoked salmon. The gastronomic piece is tuned by something very good, which is typical in Japan but which we did not have in the time of Miyabi beginnings. Yuzukoshou spice. And we will use nori as well, but in a different way. To make you happy, our original oshizushi will be three pieces in the package and for the same price as in the nineties. You can compare them. Then and now!
Every year we celebrate the Miyabi anniversary in May, but we should rightly celebrate it in March as well, because then, on Girls’ Day, the holiday of Ohinasama on March 3, we first opened the Miyabi door for guests. With the joy of naive girls. Shy and with a money box. Officially we opened on May 5, 1995. It is the holiday of Tango no Sekku, celebration for boys and now also for all children in Japan. Long cloth carp flutter over the residents in Japan as a symbol of courage and strength. I indeed needed that courage and strength. After May 5, I could no longer act as the owner of a restaurant who is not sure what we cook. I had to wear self-confidence. Of course, we quitted the temporary operation with the money box. We came out with our first Miyabi menu. Its appearance was artistic made of washi paper. To this day, I am proud of it. We will exhibit it for you in Miyabi. We now have empty tables, so why not cover them with interesting things to watch. The author of the menu is the artist Jan Činčera. The menu consisted of three parts that fit together, where the point was the Miyabi logo from the artist Aleš Najbrt. Both authors are still our close friends and supporters. And our pride.
Cloth carps still flutter over Miyabi. From the balcony. They have been exchanged for new ones several times. Prague smog damages them. Carps above Miyabi are visible from both corners of Navratilova Street and they let people know that Miyabi is still in operation. Still open, though now just only for Take away.
Miyabi guests, those committed to us for a long time and you who have recently discovered Miyabi, please come and check our two retro and novoretro dishes at retro prices! They symbolically give us and you a kind of courage we need. Things which were justified and beautiful in the past may now require changes upon new conditions and with new themes. It is good to build on the old and create new. Human creativity is beautiful!