Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
Tasty Tidbit: Jiro Dreams of Sushi offers a mouthwatering documentary about a dedicated chef.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Every night, 85-year-old sushi chef Jiro Ono serves a menu of just sushi to only 10 lucky guests inside a tiny sushi bar located in a Tokyo subway station. Even though the restrooms are down the hall at Sukiyabashi Jiro, the restaurant has garnered multiple three-star reviews from the Michelin Guide, which places Jiro’s unassuming establishment in the same league as Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., and Gordon Ramsay’s intimate, eponymous first restaurant in London.
Director David Gelb’s documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which looks into the daily workings of Sukiyabashi Jiro and at Jiro’s unwavering devotion to his craft, is a piece of art as meticulously crafted as Jiro’s sushi. Thin as a piece of sliced ginger, Jiro oversees everything in his establishment from the placement of his guests to the tenderness of the fish he will be serving that evening. But, sometime in the near future, his oldest son Yoshikazu will be taking over. At one point, a past employee of Sukiyabashi Jiro notes that Yoshikazu will have to make sushi twice as good as Jiro’s to be seen as the equal of his father.
While the burdens of living up to oversized expectations is one topic explored in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, it’s also just a fascinating look at the preparation of sushi. The film leaves the sushi bar to accompany Yoshikazu on his daily trip to Tsukiji Fish Market, where a tuna dealer inspects the texture of a piece of fresh tuna with his fingers to determine how the rest of the fish will taste. A few minutes later, the market erupts with noise as auctioneers ring bells and theatrically sell the fish. It’s a glimpse inside another world.
Back at the sushi bar, Gelb documents the extreme dedication that apprentices must have to advance at Sukiyabashi Jiro. A new employee’s first duty is to simply provide a hot wet towel to diners. We also learn that it takes 10 years for an apprentice to be trusted enough to cook eggs in the restaurant.
Some of the most arresting scenes in the movie are Gelb’s exquisite close-up shots of Jiro’s sushi. A recurring shot of lean tuna (akami) looks almost like a translucent gemstone perched on a finger of rice.
The son of the manager of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Gelb includes several instances when the film describes the way Jiro runs the restaurant in musical terms. At one point, Jiro is compared to the maestro of an orchestra. In another beautiful segment, Japanese food writer Masuhito Yamamoto says that Jiro’s sushi course is like a concerto. As Yamamoto explains how the three courses are similar to a concerto’s three movements, classical music plays as Jiro serves his guests.
Like good sushi, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a small thing full of distinctive flavors. Good luck trying to resist hitting up a local sushi bar after taking in the visual feast of Gelb’s documentary.
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (3) Directed by David Gelb • Starring Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono • Rated PG • 81 min. • At Osio Cinemas.