Documentary Watch: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Documentary Watch: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Ever see a film that invokes such a level of passion and craving that your mouth begins to water? Jiro Dreams of Sushi is one of those films.

Jiro owns a sushi house in Tokyo’s business district. The sushi bar sells only sushi, no alcoholic beverages, appetizers or side dishes. The sushi rolls and nigiri are grandiose in their simplicity; Jiro uses the finest quality ingredients and old-school methods to bring out the natural flavors of the fish on a diner’s palate. The lack of frou-frou elements or unnecessary garnishes bring the attention back to flavor and technicality;  one patron described the fish as butter melting on her tongue.

Several apprentices discuss Jiro’s mentoring process, including a discussion of the shortest tenure of an apprentice (one day). Both sons marinate over what Jiro was like as a father; one anecdote includes one of the boys not recognizing his father and asking their mother what this stranger was doing in their house (Jiro frequently rose before the boys were up and came home long after their bedtimes). Despite Jiro’s familial shortcomings, his real marriage is to his art in sushi-making, and his family has come to respect this.

The sushi master has two sons, one of whom is being groomed to take over the restaurant after Jiro’s retirement (in line with Japanese custom). His younger son owns another sushi restaurant, using the same style and meticulous clean method as his father, but in a more relaxed atmosphere.

The documentary has a sleepy, dreamlike quality, which is buffeted by whimsical Philip Glass-type soundtrack. At times, you will feel that you are at the bottom of a pool looking up at Jiro & Sons.

A big reveal near the documentary’s end is heart-warming as much as it is startling.  This one plot twist made the rating jump a 1/2 star – you leave the film feeling buoyed (and hungry for sushi).

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is available on Netflix instant and DVD.

Recommendation Level: Strongly Recommended (even if you don’t like sushi).

EXTRA CREDIT — Dining with your eyes.

Famously foodie films  include Babette’s Feast, 9 1/2 Weeks, Julie & Julia, The Cook The Thief His Wife & His Lover, and my personal favorite, Big Night. Big Night is an Italian restaurant that serves one last meal to its faithful few before its possible and likely closing. During the highlight course, one diner sobs at the beauty and divine taste of the food.

If you want to nurture your sweet tooth, re-watch Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Chocolat, Waitress (oh, those pies!).  For foreign films, try Tampopo, Tortilla Soup, Like Water for Chocolate, Mostly Martha, or Eat Drink Man Woman.

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