Film Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
In the corner of a subway station somewhere in Tokyo there is an 85 year old sushi chef and his 50 year old son studiously working in a tiny restaurant that seats only ten people. 70 years in any trade would seem like complete madness yet he shows no signs of slowing down, driven by an insatiable hunger to improve.
You may wonder where you can find an initial interest in this father and son story but mix in three Michellin Stars and a reputation for serving the finest sushi in the world, then the humble surroundings become all that more intriguing.
I am far from being any sort of expert when it comes to fine dining but it is hard to imagine a more unassuming restaurant held in such high esteem. Sukiyabashi Jiro serves a 20 piece sushi only menu with prices starting from 30,000 yen (£250) owned by Jiro Ono who has been recognised by the Japanese government as a National Treasure for the advancement of Japanese cuisine. When it comes to dishing up warm fish on rice, you will not find a superior chef.
Jiro’s story is served as simply as his world renowned sushi with no frills and a huge amount of respect paid to the food itself. A Philip Glass soundtrack compliments the close ups of the trainee’s preparing the fish and rice, all part of the ten year training involved in achieving Shokunin (Master Sushi Chef) status.
A great deal of time is spent following the trail of the fish from fishermen to kitchen where the skilled preparation provides Jiro the space to orchestrate the delivery of the food to his customers, his knife carving the air with conductor like finesse. Such is Jiro’s unflinching dedication to improving his sushi he commands an instant respect as a man still completely head over heels in love with his work, a passion that has been passed on to his eldest son Yoshikazu.
An ex-trainee of Jiro now in charge of his own restaurant shares his concern that Yoshikazu may have an almost impossible task maintaining his father’s standards when the day comes for him to succeed his role. Those fears are not explored here much like Yoshikazu’s personal life, although later there is a caveat that suggests it may not prove to be so much of an issue.
You can have nothing but towering admiration for both father and son who so clearly respect each others ambition and drive for perfection, understanding their talent for marrying taste and smell would mean little without such an immense work ethic. Not only is this an education on the finer arts of the cuisine but it reveals a seamless father/son bond and the passing of a family torch from one generation to the next, a tradition ingrained into Japanese society as firmly as the duo’s belief in their work.
Jiro tells us that in his early years he would leap out of bed in the middle of the night buzzing with excitement about the ideas that invaded his sleep. Perhaps in another 30 years or so we will revisit the Ono clan to hear the tales of Yoshikazu’s night time dreams.
Director: David Gelb
Production co: Preferred Content, Sundial Pictures