During the credits of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I let out a small sigh of contentment, like I’d just eaten the greatest meal of my life. Except, I hadn’t actually eaten it, I’d only watched it being prepared on a movie screen.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi had me mesmerized from the opening frame to the last credit. The new documentary (currently playing at E Street Cinema) is a must-see for anyone with a passion for food, or a passion for anything, really. It profiles Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. His tiny 10-seat Tokyo restaurant has earned a three-star Michelin rating, and even seasoned food critics speak reverently of the place.
I remember seeing Jiro’s restaurant featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations a few years ago. Bourdain was unsurprisingly awed by the food, but we learned little about the impassive Jiro himself, mainly due to time constraints and the language barrier. Here, the filmmakers reveal what makes him tick. And he’s a pretty fascinating guy. He’s got stories, he has some sly personality, and at times, he’s quite funny.
You also haven’t seen sushi prepared until you’ve seen this movie. Jiro has devoted his entire life to his craft. Literally, his entire life; he was on his own and got his first job at the age of nine. Nine! Now 85, he lives, breathes and sleeps sushi. The movies captures his never-ending quest for perfection (some may call it obsession), a drive that he’s instilled in his two sons, both of whom are following in their father’s footsteps.
I could watch Jiro and his kitchen staff all day on a continuous loop. The dedication, precision, nuance, and attention to detail must be seen to be believed. You could probably count on one hand the number of people with that sort of singular focus. It’s like watching the last of a dying breed. Jiro doesn’t seem to care about money or fame. He just wants to make the perfect sushi. One gets the sense that if he ever retired or were unable to work, he’d quickly slip away. Without your single passion in life, what else would there be to live for?
There’s a section of the movie where a food critic compares Jiro’s tasting menu to a concerto. That leads to a sublime scene of stirring classical music, beautiful cinematography and shot after shot of gorgeous sushi. It was thoroughly moving. My eyes actually welled up. Yeah, that’s right. I got teary at a movie about sushi.
What can I say, I dug the movie. It’s inspiring watching a true artist at work. It’s inspiring hearing someone talk about the sacrifice and dedication it requires to achieve greatness. It’s inspiring seeing people who take such immense pride in their craft.
And damn, the food… We all walked out of the theater with one thought on our minds: Where can we get some sushi??