March 28, 2012

Review: 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' – A Life Worth Eating

"All I want to do is make better sushi."

The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi is pure food porn and visual delightfulness wrapped in a compelling biography. Director David Gelb wonderfully crafts a full story based on the life of master chef Jiro Ono from the world famous Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi restaurant. Jiro is somewhat of a national living treasure recognized by the Japanese government for his contributions to Japanese cuisine.

Sukiyabashi Jiro regularly ranks as the best sushi restaurant in the world with its coveted Michelin Guide three star rating, despite its barely ten seat capacity, located in a Tokyo subway station. His secret is in simplicity, and therefore purity, when it comes to food. His meticulous methods are based on constant routine and practice over decades.

The documentary breaks downs the elements of sushi making and artistry to its basic elements. Jiro, his two sons, and staff of apprentices are so good at sushi making because of their attention to detail. From the hand-picked fish and ingredients at the market to their rice vendors, every part of his sushi is meticulously and thoroughly prepared.

The documentary is as much about sushi as it is about family and Japanese culture. The film itself replicates Jiro's sushi making strategy. It carefully and elegantly tells Jiro's story through repetition and slow exposition, allowing viewers to savour his journey, life, and how he was led to a life of sushi. His sons respectfully detail his methods of fathering through food preparation. Everything about sushi is a metaphor for their lives and culture.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a thorough look into the world of sushi, expressing ideas of family, Japanese living, work ethic, as well as food. Anyone interested in the inner workings of food preparation or the Japanese psyche will be fascinated by the attention to detail and wonderful portrait Gelb paints of Jiro and his life's work.

There's something comforting about a man dreaming of nothing but making sushi forever, making it better, and how he achieves this dream. Jiro loves his job. He literally dreams of sushi.

More | NPR

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