By Viola Bello
“If it doesn’t taste good, you can’t serve it,” says Jiro Ono, the world’s best sushi chef. This is easy to see as you watch one eye-popping, mouth watering scene after another of sushi being prepared by Ono and his staff at his 10-seat restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro located in the basement of a subway in Tokyo. Directed by David Gelb, the film is shot in documentary style, and follows Jiro Ono in his quest to make the perfect piece of sushi, while at the same time exploring the intricate relationships between himself and those around him.
‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ is a simple film about an 85 year old who thinks about sushi so much that he even dreams about the perfect piece of sushi while he is sleeping. Elegantly sewn into the story is the relationship between Jiro and his oldest son Yoshikazi. Yoshikazi has been learning to make sushi under his father’s tutelage since he was 19 years old. We see him struggle with the reality that he needs to be twice as good as his father for people to stop comparing him to his father or to even know his name. Unless he is that much better, he will always be under his father’s shadow. In 2008, Jiro became the first sushi chef in the world to have been awarded the coveted 3 star Michelin rating.
I always thought that fresh fish is the most important part of sushi. I looked at rice as a nonessential extra in a movie. Not in this restaurant. Each and every vendor is a specialist in his trade. The tuna vendor is a connoisseur of tuna. The shrimp vendor is a connoisseur of shrimp. The rice vendor is a connoisseur of rice. Every ingredient that goes into preparing the sushi has to be the finest of its kind. Everyone, from Jiro and Yoshikazi, to their apprentices and vendors know this simple fact. As the rice vendor says, “If you can’t cook it, what’s the point of buying it.”
If you enjoy watching a brilliant film, then you will love this one. It is an inspiring story that is at the same time touching, funny and beautiful. You can expect to pay around $300 for a 15 minute of sushi eating experience, making it the most expensive sushi in the world. And you can most definitely expect to be really hungry at the conclusion of this extraordinary and inspiring story. The film opens in Washington DC on March 23 at the E Street Cinema.