You do not have to be a lover of sushi to enjoy this documentary, it is actually about so much more than just a type of food. The focus of the film is on 85 year-old sushi master Jiro Ono and the workings of his tiny ten-seat Michelen 3 star restaurant in Tokyo. The Director, David Gelb, could have spent a lot of time interviewing famous chefs praising the food (this is the age of celebrity chefs) but instead he simply shows us Jiro’s process behind his tireless quest for perfection. Some scenes that, for me, quickly helped demonstrate the quest included:
- a sushi pilgrim has traveled hours, he enters the restaurant before opening to inquire about their serving times only to be politely informed that reservations need to be made a month in advance, there are no appetizers – only sushi, and starting cost is $300
- an apprentice trains to make the grilled egg (Tamagoyaki) only to be told each time that it is not right, after six months of making eggs Jiro tells him it is acceptable and he breaks down in tears
- Jiro’s son, Yoshikauzu, bikes to the fish market and meets with the Jiro equivalents of each specific seafood (the shrimp master, the tuna master, etc…) who save Jiro the best products
A main theme that comes from the interviews with Jiro and the employees is that of the passing of the torch to his son. It seems many believe that, despite the skills his son has acquired through extensive training, that the restaurant will never be the same simply because of the aura that surrounds Jiro. Without leaving the universe of Jiro’s restaurant, the film also touches on the history of sushi and what the future might hold with regards to fishery stock.
There are many gorgeous long shots of the sushi presentation combined with long silent contemplative moments with Jiro and his son. In this age of multitasking and diversification, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an ode to focusing on just one thing and doing it to perfection. The soundtrack features a lot of classical music and I find Philip Glass music to be the perfect accompaniment for sushi. The only drawback for me was that no matter how good my local sushi might be, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop imagining what it could have been.