A documentary about a sushi chef so masterful, Japan considers him a living national treasure. He is the oldest chef to receive 3 Michelin stars, which means, “a restaurant so amazing, it’s worth traveling to the country just for that restaurant and nothing else.”
I don’t watch that many documentaries. I used to watch a bunch of nature ones when I was younger, but never biographies or histories unless I was trapped in a hotel room and nothing else was on. But this was a FOOD documentary. And sushi! I missed the movie when it came out near me, so when Netflix got it, I immediately put it in my queue.
Jiro Ono is, at the time this was made, an 85 year old sushi chef. He has two full grown sons; one who still works under him and will take over when his father eventually retires or passes away, and the younger who runs the second restaurant in Tokyo (his restaurant has 2 Michelin stars). You have to make a reservation months in advance, and his sushi bar seats about maybe a dozen people. It costs about $400 and all he serves is sushi. No appetizers, no entrees. Just sushi. He adjusts his sushi construction for the customer–ladies get smaller pieces so the sushi fits neatly into their mouths, like it’s supposed to. You can’t order anything, just eat what he gives you.
Do not watch this documentary on an empty stomach (I saw several tweets of people eating junk food while watching this, and feeling a tad guilty). Also, do not go out and eat mediocre grocery store sushi afterwards (result of watching this on an empty stomach). It will just make you sad. Go to a decent sushi restaurant without those gimmicky rolls (Dragonroll of Firestorm Face Amazingness!!) slathered in sriracha or drowned in unagi sauce. The best sushi is a small bed of rice with a small slab of fish topping it off. That’s it. Maybe a dab of wasabi in between the fish and rice. Maybe a light glazing of sauce. But here, simplicity is king.
Simple doesn’t mean boring either. The video of the finished products are art. They are gorgeous.
Not only that, but the painstaking preparation that goes into creating this art is amazing. No wonder it is art. The octopus has to be hand massaged for 45 minutes. FORTY-FIVE MINUTES of standing there, squashing up an octopus (this job is given to one of the several apprentices). The rice is cooked a special way to bring it to ultimate perfection (this is the first duty of the apprentice–get the rice down. Then they graduate to tamago, or egg). The rice seller will only sell to Jiro because he knows his rice will get treated right. Jiro only buys from the best quality food vendors.
Jiro’s story is a little bittersweet though because he admits to become the best, he had to immerse himself completely in his work, even at the cost of his family. When they were little, his sons didn’t even recognize him on the rare occasions they saw him because he would come home so late, and leave so early.
In this movie, Jiro teaches the viewer the secrets of becoming a craftmaster. Whether or not one can put in that level of commitment though is another thing. The main thing though Jiro says, “You have to fall in love with your work.”
I want the blu-ray for my collection. I was starving after I watched it, and craving good sushi like mad. I originally watched it on DVD, so god knows how much more delicious the sushi will look in HD.
EDIT: @noelrk reminds me that it is available on Netflix Instant Streaming now, so go go go!