Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Posted by martinteller on October 14, 2012
In a tiny Tokyo restaurant, the 85-year-old Jiro Ono serves what might be the world’s finest sushi. The restaurant has only ten seats and serves absolutely nothing but sushi, but the restaurant has three Michelin stars (fine dining’s highest honor) and books reservations a month in advance. In this documentary portrait, director David Gelb explores Jiro, his craft, and his legacy.
I’ve never been a sushi guy, but then I’ve probably never had good sushi. I had a bad experience with wasabi many years ago (ate a large forkful of it not knowing what it was… felt like a truck ran over my tongue) so maybe that’s had a lingering effect on my opinion of the cuisine in general. But a good documentary doesn’t require you to have an appreciation of its subject matter. I don’t know or care one bit about basketball, but that doesn’t stop Hoop Dreams from being a relentlessly engaging film.
Jiro’s creations certainly look mouth-watering, and the accolades for his sushi are numerous. It’s the film’s one major drawback, it’s a bit repetitive and sycophantic. But as a case study of perfectionism and dedication, it’s pretty interesting stuff. Jiro takes every single element of his ingredients and preparations seriously, with an attention to detail and quality that is obsessive.
What’s really more compelling is Jiro’s son, Yoshikazu. Jiro’s younger son has opened a separate branch (an apparently exact duplicate of the original, except mirror-imaged because he’s right-handed while his father is a leftie) but as the oldest, it’s Yoshikazu’s job to take over his father’s legacy. At 60 years old, he is still considered an apprentice but has assumed some of the major duties, including the crucial selection at the fish market. Jiro acknowledges that it is the work of Yoshikazu — and the rest of his small, dedicated staff — that accounts for much of his success. But when the torch finally gets passed, will the restaurant lose business, with the name and status of Jiro being so closely tied to its reputation? You can’t help feeling a little sorry for Yoshikazu (and this profession was not his first love), as driven and perhaps as talented — if not more so — than his father, but potentially subject to the whims of a public. Rating: Good (74)