Friday, April 20, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Last week, the teacher of my Japanese class told me that she had found my blog sort of by chance (I'd mentioned that I reviewed movies here and for eFilmCritic, and it certainly didn't escape her attention that eiga was one of the Japanese words I already knew when class started, but she hadn't been looking for it specifically). I wound up distributing a few cards with the URLs on them, which is nifty and all, but you'd better believe that writing this review made me a little more nervous than usual, and Sunday's screening of Hirokazu Koreeda's Kiseki? Yeah, no pressure at all!

I did, however, do a little better than usual in picking up Japanese vocabulary, in that I was able to pick oishi ("tasty") and tabemashita ("I ate") out on occasion, along with the occasional number.

Nifty little movie, anyway. Maybe I'll have to give sushi another chance sometime, although the irony is that I figure I'd be a lot more interested if it was more like what we mostly see here - seafood, some spices, and rice - rather than the rolls with vegetables and ingredients whose names I do not recognize which seem much more common in American spots. Maybe if I'd been able to tear myself away from work earlier, I could have joined the rest of the Chlotrudis folk for dinner beforehand, though there really wasn't time.

Instead, I wound up going home afterward and heating a frozen pizza while I started writing the review. I felt like a monster, as well I should have.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 19 April 2012 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (first-run, 35mm)

I can't say I'm a particular fan of sushi; in fact, I'm quite the culinary coward. But you don't have to like a particular food to admire fine craftsmanship and dedication, and those are things that Jiro Ono has plenty of. David Gelb's documentary on the man isn't exactly short on them, either.

Jiro Ono is 85 years old, and has been making sushi for about seventy-five of them. Despite being located in a Ginza subway station, his restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, may be the world's best. It has a mere ten seats and is booked for lunch and dinner at least a month in advance - and that meal will run a visitor roughly three hundred dollars, depending on what is available at the fish market that morning. Many of Jiro's former employees have gone on to open their own well-regarded restaurants, including his younger son Takashi, but elder son Yoshikazu still toils alongside his father after thirty years as the designated successor to a man who appears to have no interest in retiring.

There are several different threads running through Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but the most important is perhaps that a job done well brings pleasure. Though food writer Masuhiro Yamamoto does, eventually, describe innovations Jiro made in how a meal is structured, that is given less attention than how Jiro is shokunin, a true master who feels responsible to do his best. Throughout the movie, director David Gelb gives us further examples of how Jiro makes a bit more effort: He deals with the seafood and rice merchants that have the highest standards, cooks the rice under higher pressure than anyone else, has his staff massage the octopus for twice as long, and he and Yoshikazu sample the wares constantly to maintain quality control. A scene at the end demonstrates how this attention to detail extends all the way to how he places his morsels on each individual customer's plate.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

ClarkBayns said...

Worth every minute of reading, great job mate.