Jiro Dreams of Sushi

BY Sarie Cruz

There is such a subtlety that surrounds proper sushi etiquette, that most people don’t even know they breach it. For instance, sushi experts know better than to dunk their sushi in soy sauce, rice first or biting the roll in half.

These things seem to be minor concerns to the layman, but consider the reasons behind these specific Japanese customs. You think you enjoy your sushi the way you eat it? How much more delicious can it be if you ate it the right way? Sitting in front of Jiro Ono, sushi chef extroadinaire, and eating the dish the way he tells you to can only make a good thing better.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a full-length documentary about master sushi chef, Jiro Ono. At 86, he holds a Guinness World Record for being the oldest 3-star Michelin chef. Created by David Gelb, the film peeks into the daily life of Jiro, a small tribute to the art of creating beautiful sushi, and the greatest master behind it.

Sukiyabashi Jiro is an all-sushi restaurant tucked in a basement next to the Ginza subway station. Boasting the high honor of 3 Michelin stars, getting a seat is a little tricky, despite the hefty price tag that comes with your sushi rolls. To eat at Jiro’s famed restaurant, you need to book about a full year in advance and bring enough cash for your 30,000 Yen ($370) meal. There are no menus, because they only serve sushi. Jiro Dreams of Sushi lets you in on how Jiro’s mind works and the dining experience at Sukiyabashi Jiro. David Gelb justifies the price tag, saying “You’re paying for the best fish in the world, prepared by a man who has spent his life perfecting the way to prepare rice and fish.”

Jiro has a special understanding of sushi and he plans everything down to the smallest of details, reverent of the art of making sushi. It’s almost a religion to him, and that makes all the difference. A meal at Jiro’s restaurant means that you get a little taste of magic. He works with what he’s got—varied seafood handpicked by his son and successor, Yoshikazu—and taste tests everything himself. He overlooks everything everyday. He even tells his clients where to sit!

When Jiro isn’t playing chef, he supervises Yoshikazu in every way, hoping to pass down his meticulousness and attention to detail. The chef rolls each of the pieces in front of the diner, a careful observer of his customers. Though stern and serious, he is intensely concerned about giving them the best dining experience.

Jiro’s dedication to making beautiful sushi is celebrated by many, including culinary master Joël Robuchon and Japanese food critic, Mashuro Yamamato. Yamamoto says that Jiro is the only master chef he knows that is so hard on himself, constantly in pursuit of making better sushi, even though he is already considered the world’s best.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a love letter to sushi, and a celebration of one great man’s quest to create meaningful experiences through food. More than just creating a showcase of fine sushi—from mouth-watering close-ups to exciting montages—Gelb manages to capture the magic of the man behind these delectable treats through earnest interviews with family, friends, and admirers. The documentary packs life’s essential lessons in 81 minutes— just make sure you see it on a full stomach.