I love sushi. I have eaten lots of it during the years. I have eaten sushi in Tokyo and I have visited the Tsukiji Fish Market where just about every piece of sushi in that area comes from. If I had my way the secret of sushi would stay with me and me alone so I can enjoy it again and again for the rest of my life. Well, let’s not get carried away here. I was a little bit afraid of watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, because it was surely going to tell me the sushi I have been eating over the years has been totally inferior and I have more work to do in finding the perfect sushi. As it turns out even Jiro doesn’t make the perfect sushi, if we are to believe him.
In Jiro Dreams of Sushi we get a rare look behind the scenes of one of the most (if not the most) prestigious sushi restaurants in the world. It seats only about ten people, the price tag is usually $300 a plate and you have to reserve a spot months in advance. Oh, did I mention it can be found in a subway station. Yeah, try that in New York. Jiro has been making his (almost) perfect sushi for seventy years now and isn’t thinking about retiring. He has his oldest son next to him (the other one got his own restaurant in Roppongi Hills) and a small army of devoted apprentices in the back to prepare everything for him according to the most precise measurements and quality demands.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a beautiful documentary about art. Not the kind of art we are used to referring. This is food art at its finest. Like the way the chef at the former El Bulli used to create pieces of art from food. Jiro does the same thing, albeit in a much less showy fashion. As is to be expected from a Japanese chef he doesn’t create garish dishes with tons of junk added to the sushi like so many people do here in the U.S. He makes nigiri, and nigiri only. A bit of perfectly cooked rice, a small dollop of wasabi, a slice of incredibly fresh fish and a lick of soy sauce. It’s mouthwateringly brilliant in its simplicity.
There is nothing in Jiro Dreams of Sushi that jumps out at you. As it should be. It is a documentary about an unassuming chef who lives to perfect his art. The movie reflects this in mesmerizing fashion. I was hooked for the entire runtime. Of course it helps that I love sushi and that I have been to some of the places shown in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but that’s not all of it. This is a very well made documentary across the board. It is moving, it is funny, it is informative, it makes you want to go to Tokyo to book a table at Jiro’s restaurant to experience his sushi first-hand. The only negative element Jiro Dreams of Sushi has left me with is the perception that all the sushi I will eat for the rest of my life will probably never measure up to Jiro’s sushi.