A young restaurant owner tries to keep his eatery alive in Hamburg, Germany, in Soul Kitchen, a sweet and goofy movie.
Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos) is the owner of a local dive serving local-dive food called Soul Kitchen. Though he seems to want food injected with the spirit and flavor of soul music, Soul Kitchen serves a lot of fried things with creamy sauces. Business isn’t booming but it’s sort of OK, though Zinos has the tax department coming after him and doesn’t quite have enough work for his current staff, much less his brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu), who wants to at least have a job on paper to help him get work release from prison. Then his girlfriend Nadine (Pheline Roggan) leaves to follow her foreign correspondent dreams and work in Shanghai. And then he hires a talented but surly chef, Shayn (Birol Unel), whose fancy food scares away Soul Kitchen’s regulars.
Things are looking pretty low for Zinos, like perhaps acquaintance Neumann (Wotan Wilke Mohring) will be able to steal the property out from under him after all. And then a crowd of music lovers discovers Shayn’s food and suddenly it seems like Soul Kitchen might stand a chance.
There are more ups and downs — Zinos misses Nadine, Zinos also has a slipped disc that is leaving him increasingly in pain and doubled over, Illias has a gambling problem and also a flirtation with Soul Kitchen waitress Lucia (Anna Bederke). To sum up the plot is more or less to give away the entire movie; generally, Zinos is a nice but slightly bumbling guy trying to run a good restaurant.
This isn’t quite The Big Night, we don’t get scene after scene of heavenly food. But there are some fun restaurant and food moments mixed in with the general screwballness. The lost-in-translation quality of this German film helps to smooth over some of the rougher parts and while Zinos and Illias are broad characters they manage to be endearing nonetheless. B-
Not rated. Directed by Fatih Akin and written by Akin and Adam Bousdoukos, Soul Kitchen is an hour and 39 minutes long and is distributed by IFC Films. It is also available via Comcast OnDemand.