Susan Granger's review of 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'
Published 10:59 am, Thursday, April 19, 2012
Considered by many to be the world's greatest sushi chef, 85 year-old Jiro Ono is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat restaurant that's tucked into the subterranean arcade under a Tokyo office building, near the Ginza subway station. Michelin gave Sukiyabashi Jiro one of its rare three-star ratings, indicating that it's "worth traveling to the country just to eat there" and, not surprisingly, the Japanese government has named Jiro a living national treasure.
So it's fascinating to see how this octogenarian, a passionate perfectionist, dedicates himself to his kitchen rituals, adhering to the cultural reverence for "shokunin," defined as an artisan's dedicated work ethic. In Jiro's case, he never takes time off except to go to funerals. And as the title reveals, he, literally, dreams about creating exotic sushi dishes that no one has ever tasted before.
Documentarian David Gelb, a sushi devotee since childhood, obviously developed a personal rapport with Jiro, who reveals how he was forced out of his home and working with sushi since he was 10. Meticulous training and maintaining high standards are paramount in Jiro's life, as he diligently passes along his knowledge to his sons, who are his apprentices. Destined to inherit his father's mantle, stoic Yoshikazu, is dispatched to buy fish at Tokyo's enormous Tsukiji seafood market, where the specialized vendors are often as idiosyncratic as their demanding customers.
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Uncompromising about preparation, Jiro orders his assistants to hand-massage octopus for 40-50 minutes before serving. One helper relates how he prepared an egg sushi that was deemed unacceptable 200 times over a four-month period before the master approved it.
While there are mouth-watering close-ups of Jiro and Yoshikazu's creations, reservations must be made at least a month ahead and prepare to pay about $350 per person for the tasting menu of 20 pieces. Insofar as atmosphere goes, there is none, and meals are consumed in 30 minutes.
In Japanese with English subtitles, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is a savory 7, especially appetizing for foodies.