Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi: A Trip to Tokyo at the Movies

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a new documentary film directed by David Gelb that chronicles the life of Jiro Ono, one of the best if not the best sushi chefs in Japan.  The movie not only tells his story but also that of his family, particularly that of his heir and apprentice, his son Yoshikazu.  Jiro is 85 years old and still leads his restaurant daily.

The restaurant looks nondescript and those not in the know might not pay any notice to the little ten seat sushi bar in a Tokyo subway station.  But looks can be deceiving.  Jiro is a master who has been making sushi for decades and whose apprentices have gone on over the years to open some of the most highly regarded sushi establishments in Japan.  To get to experience Jiro's sushi, one must make a reservation long in advance, have a big budget and be prepared to eat quickly.

Meals begin at $350 excluding beverages and consist of a series of 20 pieces of sushi one after the other.  Jiro states that improvement is always possible and so each day he attempts to make the best sushi of his life.  After several months of waiting from when customers make reservations, their meal may be over in as little as thirty minutes.  Each piece of nigiri sushi is formed just so, with a precise amount of rice, an appropriate amount of wasabi added and then the fish draped on top with just a drizzle of soy sauce added on top with a paintbrush.  Needless to say this is a "no soy sauce" type of establishment.

Jiro's dedication has led to an interesting relationship between him and his son as the son has waited for decades for his father to retire, so he can finally be the head sushi chef.  I cannot imagine the patience that the son Yoshikazu endures nor the phenomenal drive that still pushes Jiro to come into the restaurant day after day when he could be enjoying his retirement, traveling on the gourmet circuit or spending time with his family.

When I walked out of the screening I was craving sushi.  Just watching Jiro prepare piece after piece of the highest quality fish was mouthwatering.  Food porn at its finest.  It was too late to get sushi that night, but I stopped in at Irori the following evening to get my fix.  It was quite good, but not quite the Jiro experience.

Here in Los Angeles, Jiro opens at the Nuart Theater in West LA on Friday March 16th.  It is already open in New York City and will shortly be opening in cinemas nationwide.  Don't go hungry or prepare for your own sushi craving.

A clip is below:

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