California (Roll) Dreamin’

1 Aug

One of the things that we and our spouse discovered early in our relationship is that we both liked films about obsessive people. She liked movies about obsessive women (Truffaut’s “The Story of Adele H.”)  while we preferred movies about obsessive men (Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo”). We both liked “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, David Gelb’s 2011 documentary about sushi chef Jiro Ono, an octogenarian who runs a small sushi restaurant in Tokyo.

Jiro is a quirky guy who decided decades ago that he would be a sushi chef and devoted all his energy to being the best sushi chef he could possibly be.  Jiro seems to have reached his goal; reservations at this restaurant must be made a month in advance and his restaurant has been given three stars by the Michelin Red Guide, their highest rating.

Everything is prepared to the nth degree – the squid must be massaged for forty minutes so that it will not be rubbery.  The rice is cooked under intense pressure.  Jiro’s tuna merchant is a bit like Jiro – if there are ten tuna, he knows that only one can be the best and buys that one.

There is a touching section of the film when one of the apprentices describes his ordeal in learning to make egg sushi, preparing the dish two hundred times over many days, only to have the result rejected every time. Somewhere around batch 200 he finally produces egg sushi that satisfies the finicky master.

So, since Jiro’s sushi is so great, would we like to eat at Sukiyabashi Jiro?  Probably not. Viewing the documentary, one wonders if Jiro has achieved the summit of sushi only to fail at the total dining experience. For one thing, dining there is rather pricey – around three hundred American dollars. Secondly, the meal will last about a half hour.  Though it may seem that the eccentric master is trying to pack ’em in then boot ’em out, it seems there is actually a reason for this.  Some sushi connoisseurs contend that a piece of sushi should be consumed within five seconds after it is made. We wouldn’t want to insult the sushi by dawdling, but we think the meal should suit the diner rather than the other way ’round.  The most amusing comment about Jiro that we found on the Web compared him to the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld.

But we digress. Is “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” a good documentary? Yes. Would we like to watch it again? Yes. The only quibble we have with the film is that it seems slightly over-long.  Toward the end, we felt sated, but the film continued for a bit after that point. However, check out the film for yourself; you might decide that we’re wrong.  Too, there’s a lot that we’ve left out — no point in us doing a frame by frame commentary.  The film can be found on Netflix,and there’s also a Web site:

Jiro Ono

No soup for you!

Now’s the time we should tell you that we lied in the title of this post – you won’t find California Roll on the menu at Sukiyabashi Jiro.


One Response to “California (Roll) Dreamin’”

  1. Suzanne OBrien 3/8/2015 at 10:45 pm #

    As you and your spouse know, I am a great fan of sushi and far less picky.

    Thank you, sir harry, for your fine comments.

    De peanut gallery

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