I’ve been aware of the independent documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” for quite some time now and I remember thinking upon first hearing of it “Wow…that looks pretty good”. Other things popped up and life went about its business and I forgot about the film, only thinking of it when I would go pick up sushi at one of the many Japanese restaurants nearby but I was always busy with other things.
Well, I finally saw it.
The documentary follows Jiro Ono, a Japanese sushi chef who runs the restaurant “Sukiabashi Jiro” out of the basement of an office building in Tokyo. Jiro is a legend among sushi chefs, known around the world as being the best of the best. The master. The MAN. Using very few ingredients in his sushi, relying on perfectionist cooking techniques to bring a unique complexity and depth of flavor to a staggering purity.
Eating his tasting course has been described as being like listening to a concerto, divided into distinct movements in which you can feel the ebb and flow of the flavors as you pass from course to course while Jiro masterfully creates each individual piece of sushi seconds before it is served to each customer, of which a maximum of 10 can fit in his restaurant.
As he is creating each piece of sushi, he is intently studying each diner. If the diner he is about to serve is a woman or seems to eat slightly slower than the other diners in their party, he will make that person’s sushi slightly smaller than the rest, to ensure that all of the diners finish each piece at precisely the same time. If a diner uses their left hand to pick up the first piece of sushi, each following piece will be placed on the left side of their plate so they don’t have to reach across their body to get the food.
The documentary talks about Jiro leaving home at the ripe old age of 7, unhappy with his father. He was told when he left that he no longer had a home to return to and so off he went, doing odd jobs and getting by until he was accepted as an apprentice to a sushi chef at the age of 10. From the first moment he began to work with sushi, he says, he fell utterly and hopelessly in love with the art. From that day, he has never stopped making sushi and resents holidays because they keep him out of his kitchen.
His tireless pursuit of perfection has earned him 3 Michelin stars, an honor which the inspector qualified by saying that 3 stars is the only score which is adequate for this restaurant. 3 stars.
Oh, and did I mention that Jiro is 85 years old, making him the oldest recipient of 3 Michelin stars in history? Well, I did now. He and his eldest son, 50 year old Yoshikazu – who will someday take over the business – run the restaurant with precision and grace, as do all of their staff, constantly striving for perfection in their technique and their presentation which has placed then in a realm in which customers must make reservations a month in advance, will not be served appetizers and will still gladly pay for a dining experience which starts at 30,000 yen (that’s $380.00 (US)) and lasts for approximately 15 minutes, making Jiro’s the most expensive restaurant on the planet…And it seats 10.
Jiro dreams of sushi. I dream of Jiro’s sushi.
I have my $380 on standby.
I also highly recommend this documentary. It is uplifting, captivating, haunting, awe inspiring and the massive shift in direction at the end…Well, you’ll just have to watch it.