Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Palestinian restaurant (Nishi-kawaguchi, Saitama)
Have you ever had Palestinian cuisine?
If no, come to Tokyo!
We introduce you to the only Palestinian restaurant in Japan called “Green Grass” which is located in a suburb area of Tokyo. I didn’t imagine how Palestinian food would taste at all before I went. But we really liked it when we put it into my mouth. And we got very excited as we stuffed myself with delicious Palestinian dishes.
The restaurants which we’ve introduced you to so far in My Eyes Tokyo are excellent but “Green Grass” is another one which we really would like to recommend to you.
Iyad Mansour, a managing chef of Green Grass, started his own business from a kitchen-on-wheels. How did he build the one and only Palestinian restaurant in Japan?
We heard that you started your business from a food stall.
Yes, a kitchen-on-wheels. I started it in 2001 in a different place from here.
Have you wanted to own your shop for a long time?
Yes. I worked at a company in Japan before I launched my business. If you want to make money, it would be possible for you to do that no matter which job you work. But I don’t want only money but also other things.
I love to interact with people, I love to talk to people and I love to cook. So I would rather get involved in the restaurant business than make money. I felt that I would be able to apply my personality to that business. And also I wanted to own my restaurant.
But in order to own my own one, I thought that I had to gain much experience and a human network. So I started my business from a small stall.
I cooked a doner kebab for the first time when I was 11. I have been cooking since then. I’ve never forgotten cooking no matter how busy I was. I’m not good at cooking for myself, but I love cooking for others very much.
I have many kinds of cuisine when I’m off. I feel that’s going to be a good experience for me.
I have a delicate palate. I have argued with other staff members because of that. I don’t want to change my own taste. I don’t want to cast away my experiences and go along with others.
That’s your way to protect this restaurant, right?
Exactly. The dishes we serve are genuine Palestinian ones and we’ve never changed our tastes. In addition, there are my own original dishes. We serve both real Palestinian food and our own original ones especially when I get calls from people to make reservations.
Dishes which they made after they received a phone call from us. Every single food was really delicious!
You mean that the dishes you cook come to your mind upon receiving a call.
Yes. And it depends on a customer. For example, our regular customers know all of our dishes so they ask me to cook something without looking at a menu. Then I cook food by using meats, vegetables and herbs that are in my kitchen.
But I am not satisfied only by creating a dish. I always want to develop something new.
Also I don’t cook when I get tired even if customers order something. Because they wouldn’t be happy if I cook by constraint and make brackish food. They understand me and they will definitely come here again. I don’t care about earnings too much.
My mental condition appears on the dishes that I cook. We should cook something wholeheartedly. Love is everything for cooking.
You never chase profit.
I think about our profit at the last moment. For example, our regular customers say, “May I have the check?” and I sometimes say, “No, you don’t need to pay”. Because he/she came all the way here even though there are many other restaurants in his/her area. I think I have to show respect for that. If you think only about your profit, your business will be going wrong.
Does your business philosophy link to what you told me, “In order to own my own one, I thought that I had to gain not only money but also much experience and a human network”?
Actually I own my restaurant. Someone might envy me and say, “He is great because he came to Japan from overseas and eventually owned his restaurant.” But I’m not that great. I really spent many hours of hard labor to get to this stage. I’ve been using much, much energy since I came here.
In the restaurant business, our main work is to get people to eat something. Customers enjoy looking at dishes, enjoy a beautiful smell and enjoy tasting them with their tongues. That means we have to satisfy their eyes, noses and tongues. It’s really hard. Moreover, customers want to have delicious food which is worth their money. I also think like that when I go to other restaurants.
And the most important thing for the restaurant business is “cleanliness”. Tables are clean, small bottles for salt are clean, your body is clean and the kitchen is clean… these are more important than anything. Whether the interior of your restaurant is fancy or not is totally another story.
It could be said that the cleanliness of the heart is the most important thing for the restaurant business.
I believe that you won’t be able to own a restaurant if your heart is not clean. If your mind is not clear, you won’t be able to cook for others.
I have a few bumps every single day. But on the other hand, I have blissful moments, too. Japanese customers come all the way down here from their places and I’m very happy with that. Even though I get tired, I can release my stress or exhaustion thanks to them. Even if we have a day where the balance is in the red, I feel very happy if our customer says, “It’s delicious! Thank you for the wonderful dinner!”.
What I want to do is to tell Japanese people about Palestinian food. To me, Palestinian food is Palestine itself and my channel for telling them about Palestine is only cooking. Telling people about my country through food is the intention of running this restaurant.
Many people associate Palestine with war. But there are wonderful dishes, vegetables and olive oils in Palestine. I would like to tell people about our culture.
I do that not only here but also in other places. I bring our cuisine to many places and give Japanese people opportunities to try it. This is how I transmit to them our culture.
You can enjoy a wonderful meal and sexy belly dancing there at the same time! I recommend you to dance with the beautiful dancers. Free charge for dance show, Fridays (8:30PM-) and Saturdays (8PM-).
Green Grass *Closed
1-29-2 Nishi-kawaguchi, Kawaguchi-shi, Saitama
(The nearest station: JR Nishi-kawaguchi)
Phone：(From overseas) ＋81-48-257-3633
(In Japan) 048-257-3633
Opening hour: 6PM – 4AM
（Shop holiday: Sundays）
*Interview with Iyad Mansour…Click here!