Keeping in mind its subject’s philosophy of ‘simplicity through professional skill’, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary following the work of octogenarian Jiro Ono, the renowned sushi chef who received three Michelin stars at his Tokyo restaurant for his incredible culinary skills – something this documentary is keen to show us. Jiro’s restaurant is minimalist (there isn’t even a bathroom facility), he only serves sushi (no appetisers or dessert) and you have to book your dining experience many months in advance, that’s if you are lucky enough to get a booking. Many customers find the dining experience both scary and rapid and, at around $300 for a 15 minute meal, this is probably one of the most expensive dining experiences in the world, and yet they feel compelled to return for more. Sushi is one of the most refined and bourgeois of cuisines; simple and complex, detailed and minimalist, and Jiro Dreams of Sushi attempts to portray these aspects to us through the people it seeks to interview, including customers, restaurant critics, Jiro’s sons, apprentices and, of course, the master chef himself. But the film also places its subject on a wider stage. Serious sushi is serious business and requires unbelievable levels of commitment in order to achieve excellent results. Considered amongst the best in the world, Jiro still strives to achieve perfection.
Anyone fascinated by sushi will find plentiful information about how it is prepared and served – a world away from the conveyor belt style sushi and penchant for bizarre maki roll concoctions that many Westerners perceive sushi to be. We visit the Tokyo fish market where we see Jiro’s son sourcing the very best fish, we watch Jiro massage an octopus for optimum tenderness, learn about how rice is prepared and sympathise with the apprentice who attempted to make egg omelette (tamago) 200 times before Jiro declared it to be adequate.
The result is a consistently engaging documentary where we are offered a glimpse into the dedication of the internationally adored chef and his sons, but we also learn a huge amount about how sushi is made, how much effort goes into preparing and presenting it properly and how utterly delicious the finished results appear to be. Fascinating, but don’t watch on an empty stomach.