Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi is Simply Delicious

While many documentaries traffic in suffering and depression, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is instead a celebration of the life and skills of one man who simply wishes to create the finest sushi in the world. The sushi chef, Jiro Ono, is now 85 years old, and works every day tirelessly. Jiro has made sushi since he was a young man, working tirelessly to perfect his art and has made his mark as a three star Michelin chef at his world renowned sushi restaurant.

This documentary by David Gelb is beautiful to watch, filled with the details and images that comprise the daily lives of Jiro and his son as they train apprentices and work with vendors to create mouth-watering sushi that is far beyond anything you've been privy to in your strip-mall sushi experience. Jiro's small ten seat humble restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro in Ginza, Tokyo serves no appetizers, no frills, simply the finest sushi that Jiro can create with help from his son and a number of apprentices. Jiro himself is a quiet, thoughtful man, able to consider his decades of exceptional work and humbly say that there is still so much to learn.

The various parts of the sushi are broken down to essentials and again, the care and attention to detail is so evident as we are shown the various vendors that Jiro works with, the tuna vendor who carefully rubs bits of tuna between his fingers to detect quality and won’t purchase anything if he can’t have the best, there’s the other various fish vendors, shrimp vendor and rice vendor, all of whom practice similar levels of quality control and have nothing but the highest respect for Jiro.  Even the apprentices, who train for a minimum of ten years, speak of Jiro with endless admiration and understand that his high demands for perfection are all in service of the sushi.

And the sushi, oh man, the sushi. Jiro carefully forms each piece by hand, slathering it with a thin layer of soy sauce and plopping it down expertly before each patron. We are treated to dozens of pieces on film, each more relentlessly delicious looking than the last, so don't go into this one hungry.

The menu is changed slightly daily depending on what is available at the fish market, who will be eating, and a host of other factors that Jiro and his team take into account before devising a plan. We are taken into the kitchen and watch as Jiro's team carefully cooks the rice and prepares the fish and various dishes, with Jiro tasting and approving as they go. Reservations for the restaurant must be made months and even up to a year in advance, and will only skyrocket once the film is released. The sushi is also pricestyles of the rich and famous, with a meal costing around $400-$500 American dollars.

The film touches lightly upon the environmental impact that the rise of sushi has had on fishing, as well as the difficulties that Jiro's son Yoshikazu will have in succeeding his father. Jiro's advancing age is a concern though he remains nimble as of now.  No matter how talented Yoshikazu is, he will need to be even more talented than his father in order to achieve the same levels of success. If you love sushi and the chance to see a master at the height of his powers, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a must-see.

Grade: A