Monday 29 December 2014

Sushi chef searches for culinary perfection

Published 11/01/2013 | 18:00

Jiro dreams of sushi

(Club, IFI, 81 minutes)

Director: David Geib Stars: Jiro Ono, Yoshikazu Ono

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In Japan, sushi is a serious business, a minimalist art form which typifies the daily quest for small perfections that's a cornerstone of the national consciousness.

At its best, sushi becomes something more than a slab of fish on a bed of sticky rice, and no-one does it better than Jiro, an 86-year-old sushi master whose tiny restaurant in Tokyo's Ginza shopping district has become the stuff of legend.

The Sukiyabashi Jiro is a small basement room that only seats 10, makes nothing but sushi and doesn't even have its own toilet, yet it has three Michelin stars and is one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world. The reason? Jiro, his extended family, and his relentless search for perfection.

In David Geib's adoring documentary, we watch Jiro at work, behind his restaurant's bar lovingly and dexterously preparing course after course of exquisite sushi. His presentations are a kind of performance, but behind him in the kitchens are his eldest son and several harried-looking sous chefs who work flat out to keep the grub coming.

Jiro's stamina and commitment to excellence is remarkable, but then again he was raised in the school of hard knocks.

Born in Tokyo in the late 1920s, he was abandoned by his father at a young age and left home by the time he was nine. He began cooking while in the army, and discovered his vocation when he first prepared the traditional dish of fish and rice.

In Jiro Dreams of Sushi he explains his dedication to the principles of the shokunin, artisans who strive for perfection by doing the same things, in exactly the same way, every day. His restaurant is very expensive, and reservations are made months and years in advance, but the lucky punters seem to dine in a haze of culinary bliss.

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