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Jiro Dreams of Sushi - the movie.

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  1. It makes me want to go. Japanese food writers too really love this guy.

    11 Replies
      1. re: Scharn

        FWIW, there are several reports on the internet that he's a total jerk. Read this post and the comments below. http://www.andyhayler.com/show_restau...

        1. re: sushigirlie

          Jiro has this documentary shot by an American filmmaker which means that probably over months a foreign film crew followed his every move. Hard to believe anyone who had a problem with foreign patrons would allow this.

          That being said, if you are 85 yrs old, have 3 michelin stars and are declared a national treasure you probably earned the right to put pretentious patrons in their place, I certainly would.

          1. re: sushigirlie

            PS: Here's a review by an American food blogger who stays in Tokyo:

            "Chef Ono’s dishes are simple and straight forward: the freshest fish imaginable, warm carefully selected and cooked rice, deft knife work, and a collection of wise and sarcastic jokes. He is very serious. But unlike Masa, he was faster to crack a smile. He couldn’t stop smirking at how I took a picture of each piece of sushi and even offered to pose; though, his sharp sushi knife was a forceful deterrent. He has a funny sense of humor and is full of clever quips; my limited Japanese only understood the surface."

            http://www.alifewortheating.com/tokyo...
            http://www.alifewortheating.com/tokyo...

            1. re: Scharn

              Saw this a few weeks ago at the Napa Film Festival. It was beautifully filmed and inspires one to go there, or I guess as a foreigner to his son's place. As a sushi lover and having been to a few of the best in the US, it didn't teach me anything new about sushi, rice, types of fish, but it did offer more than a glimpse of his process. The scenes at Tsukiji were great.

              1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                Did you think the movie pushes people to visit his son more so than the old man?

                1. re: lost squirrel

                  Not at all. It wasn't until after I saw the film that I learned that non Japanese speakers are not welcome at his restaurant, if that's true.

                  1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                    Sukiyabashi Jiro is...an alternative sequence, just for you...30mn to feel alive !!! Actually, i am not joking, this is really how i feel in that tiny sushi place.. To keep up the atmosphere, the chef Ono Jiro will take no more that 5-6 clients at a time, so he can concentrate and interact approprialy. He may seem cold to people expecting the service to be as transparent as possible.
                    As for foreigners, i have seen many, as almost everytime, they didn`t spoke japanese.
                    So i suspect he oughts to limit a bit the numbers of foreigners per night... It would be easy to have the counter full of foreigners thanks to his fame, but well, i think nobody will be happy with it, right ?

            2. re: sushigirlie

              Andy Hayler clearly had a nasty experience. But I'm always a little suspect of this. It's quite possible Jiro is the height of dickiness, but since I've joined CH (and experience on other internet lists/forums) I realize I've had stellar experience at restaurants where a select few have had (reportedly) terrible and rude experiences. And when you know restauranteurs - you get to hear their side of the story (which is hilarious stuff - especially when you get a few of these people around swapping horror stories). I've even heard a few nasty stories about some C-Hounders. In this case? I wonder if Hayler wasn't dressed right. Or was wearing tennis shoes, or something that just rubbed the old guy the wrong way. (Old people - men especially, can be rubbed wrong rather easily!). I've only had two genuinely bad experiences in my many decades of eating in restaurants. One was in Paris where a waiter brought a raspberry tort that had - no kidding - aphids on it. And when I pointed it out, he acted like I was complaining. He replaced the tart with one that had fewer aphids. He shrugged and took it away. And still charged me for the tart! (And I was wearing tennis shoes - but then this wasn't a formal restaurant). The second time was this year with the bald GM at The Little Door.

              1. re: foodiemahoodie

                Rule of thumb: Never, ever, wear tennis shoes. Unless when playing tennis.

                1. re: Scharn

                  .....I am wearing tennis shoes now at work. :P

          2. I had the chance to see this at a documentary festival last summer. It was a beautiful and fascinating film. Most chowhounds would love it. Lovely shots of the food, great storytelling.

            I also had a chance to see the El Bulli film, which I also adored, though I think it might be a little slow for those less completely fascinated by food and/or molecular gastronomy.

            1. I am kicking this post back up (I was going to make a new post, but..).

              This film will be released on March 9th, 2012 (very soon), and so far it has excellent reviews (100% fresh tomatoes) on rotten tomatoes:

              http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/jiro_...

              Trailer:
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbV6kn...

              11 Replies
                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Thanks cowboy. I think I will try to watch it. Either hunt down a theater or rent it if I cannot watch it in a theater. I like these movies.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I'd have a hard sell trying to get my wife to watch it. But I'm sure I can sneak off on my own and get my fix of cinematic sushi.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      cowboy,

                      I watched a movie called King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters:

                      http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/king_...

                      The premise is about two guys fighting to get the highest score of a video game, but the story is so much more. It transcends video games. It is about family, forgiveness, honesty, fairness, work ethnics....etc.

                      I expect the same for this movie. I really don't think it is only about sushi. It seems it is really about the relationship between the father and the son, and family reputation, customer respect...etc. I seriously doubt any movie solely about sushi will get such a high score for movie review.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        I've seen that movie. I love how they created a kind of epic Good vs Evil battle out of a bunch of 40 year old guys competing in arcade Donkey Kong.

                        I think I saw that the director of "Jiro..." also directed 'Man on a Wire' which is a pretty cool little documentary, especially considering they had no video footage of the main event of the film. That was about a Frenchman who tightrope-walked between the two towers of the World Trade Center as something between a prank and performance art.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          "Jiro Dreams Of Sushi" was directed by David Gelb; it is his first full-length documentary feature. "Man On Wire" was directed by James Marsh.

                          1. re: od_sf

                            It seems you're right. Don't remember where I got the misinformation. Thanks for the correction.

                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Finally saw the film. I liked it a lot. Rented it on netflix.

                      Just want to point out that the bonus features on the DVD might be of interest to chowhounds/foodies. A lot of the deleted scenes and extra material are more intensely focused on sushi-making than the rest of the movie - I'm guessing the director wanted to avoid letting the film get too in-depth about the food itself so as not to turn off potential viewers who aren't sushi nerds, but included some more of the sushi-focused footage as DVD extras for those of us who are.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        I see, so it is on Netflix DVD now. I have the Netflix online, and it is not available at this moment. Good to know about the bonus features.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Apart from getting a physical copy of the CD you can also "rent" it to view or "buy" it to keep on your computer from Amazon. :-)

                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    It may already be released. I saw it on Netflix months ago. Nice movie, but a bit slow moving. Interesting to learn about real sushi from a master, as opposed to the multitudes of sushi places in the US with poorly trained chefs, not to mention gas stations, supermarkets, hospital cafeterias, etc. I wonder what Jiro would think of those?

                    Oops, sorry, didn't read far enough down the thread.

                  3. Fascinating documentary. It's playing at Lincoln Plaza Cinema in NYC.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: fm1963

                      I know. I searched for it, but this is too far for me. :( Maybe it will play in NJ or Philly soon. If not, I will have to rent it. :)

                        1. re: huiray

                          Thanks. Looks like Philly will eventually play it. Good. :)

                    2. I just finished watching the movie. Great film. I love the pace of the movie. Slow, beautiful, calming. Of course, as I have suspected that sushi is the topic, but not the focus. The focus is about dedication, expectation, hard working, modesty...etc. They could have easily talk about soba noodle or Chinese fried rice. The relationship between the father and the two sons is very nice.

                      I won't give away too much, but in the beginning of the film, you would wonder if the elder son Yoshikazu can live up to his father skill, then at the end you will find out more about Yoshikazu. I can be very sensitive when I watch movies, and I was very touched at a couple incidents in the film.

                      Definitely watching if you can find a theater nearby showing it, if not rent it.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        You're teasing me too much with these lead-ins. :) Your being pulled into this movie is like the gravity from a black hole - it's pulling the rest of us hopelessly in...

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          :) You should at least rent it. I understand it can be a real pain to watch it in theater since it is only played in a limited number of theaters.

                            1. re: huiray

                              By the way, thanks for your above post, Huiray. I was giving up watching it in the theater because I couldn't find one remotely near me on the opening day/week, but your post showed that the movie is opening at different locations at different dates.

                              Well, it won't be bad to watch it at home, but it is nicer to watch it in the theater.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Heh. You're welcome.

                                Well, it opens in Indy on 4/6/2012...a new addition to the roster, I think, as I did not notice it before when I first posted that link. Hmm.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            I just saw the film this weekend, and really enjoyed it - more than I thought I would. I'm not a huge fan of documentaries or of sushi, but the movie was really well done, not too long (80 mins I think), and made me really want to go to this restaurant in Tokyo. Like Chemicalkinetics says, the pace was good, lots of beautiful shots, and some interesting things to think about (to me, raised some good ethics questions about meaning/purpose of life). I thought some of the food sequences were a bit overdramatic (slow motion sushi action), but other sequences and sections were fascinating (the parts where they are at the fish market, for example). I definitely recommend it, and think it'll be good to rent eventually if it's not in a theater near you.

                            Dave MP

                            1. re: Dave MP

                              :) I laughed at several parts of the movies, like the part that Jiro talked about "when today parents say stupid things like this, no wonder the kids fail". He is very tough, and most today parents will likely to disagree with him, but Jiro does has a point.

                              There was a short scene which described the chef behind the Michelin reviews, and I love that part.

                              "it'll be good to rent eventually if it's not in a theater near you."

                              Absolutely agree with you.

                          2. just added the film to my Netflix que.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: HillJ

                              Hope you get it - My que now is 111 films, but they hardly ever show up as available.

                              1. re: Rella

                                Really, we've not had difficulty get any films once avail on DVD. Our que is long too; including films not yet avail.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  We find that we've seen just about everything, so our que is short nowadays. No trouble either getting them once they are available.

                                  Just a comment: I'm wondering that "Jiro" is just another feel-good preachy movie; however, I shall watch, just as I did El Buli - so full of itself, but watchable for me as the two "helpers" were what I focused on and enjoyed.

                            2. Just saw this movie this weekend and really enjoyed it. Two things struck me.

                              1) Given all the discussions on sushi etiquette, it was interesting watching the restaurant critic/writer use chopsticks on his sushi.

                              2) The Yoshikazu thing that Chemicalkinetics refers to in his post.

                              1. I saw the film today in NYC

                                It deserved all the good publicity.

                                1. I liked the film, for its inside view of the sushi business — the kitchen, the markets, and such — but nothing about it made me wish I could eat there. It seemed cold and impersonal, whereas a good sushi experience is more than the food, it's the interaction between the customer and sushi man.

                                  The diners pictured were not his usual customers, however, but were selected for the film. It might play out differently for his regulars.

                                  I avoid elitist restaurants of all kinds, anyway. There is plenty of good sushi to be had without needing a reservation, without submitting to rude treatment, and without paying so much.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: GH1618

                                    It did not make me want to eat there as well, but I thought it has some good life lessons in it. As I have told cowboyardee, one of my most favor films is "The King of Kong: Fistful of Quarter"

                                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King...

                                    The film, in no way, makes me want to play the game Donkey Kong, but it has a lot of deep and insight views about human/people.

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      I have to agree with GH, somewhat, but I didn't expect "life lessons" with the film, am probably in the minority. Unlike GH, I didn't think the film offered enough of an inside view of the business (business meaning the making of sushi.) If I'm ever in Tokyo of course I will go, but I've had the experience of being at some Michelin star sushi places in the US, but even better, some not on the radar, to understand the interaction between customer and chef. The demanding nature of Jiro certainly came out, but I didn't see a huge father/son struggle and was left wanting more.

                                        1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

                                          <I didn't think the film offered enough of an inside view of the business (business meaning the making of sushi.) >

                                          I have to agree with it.

                                          <but I didn't see a huge father/son struggle >

                                          I also agree with it. I don't see a hudge struggle, but there is certainly a subtle and real interaction. The demand and the expectation...etc.

                                    2. Still want to see this movie, but in the mean time, KCRW's "Good Food" spent a fair amount of time today on the subject of sushi, and part of this was speaking with this documentary's director:

                                      http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/gf/g...

                                      The director's comments may give some insight into Jiro's mindset. Some may consider Jiro to be a jerk, but knowing this generation in Japan (my father is), this perceived behavior belies what manifests it.

                                      1. We saw this in a theater a couple of weeks ago. Mesmerizingly beautiful; though it really could have stood some sharper editing, if I'd directed the thing myself cutting anything out really would be like killing your children. I loved the line about how it's the only Michelin 3-star restaurant on earth with only ten seats and no on-premises restroom! It's probably also the only one that's in a subway station … but that solves the restroom problem.

                                        I'm sure a lot of our reaction to the man's character and demeanor has to do with cultural differences, and Jiro's background as well. He is as demanding of his sons as he is of himself as much out of respect and concern for them as anything else. Neither he nor they consider it odd or unfair that he should make his way of life imperative and inevitable for them; it is what it is, and they will prosper as he has.

                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          i was going to say most japanese people in the retail sector are not chatty cathy's. in fact, if you go to a dept. store or a store the merchant will address you with a salutation, can i help you, take your order and thank you have a nice day. there is no, how's it going? where are you from? what's new in your life? love your dress! kind of conversations. it's not in the place of the merchant to ask about these things to a customer. (think opposite of Trader Joe's) there's a reserved politeness which Americans often think is rude. this is not to say that he's probably slightly on the jerky side. so combined with jerky and his japanese ways he's probably a bit on the cold side. i know i've had disagreements with some people on the japan board about this but generally japanese people will politely smile in your face while stabbing you in the back if they don't like you. (i'm japanese, born and grew up there) it's one thing if you live there. you'll get to know the market people and they'll warm up and you'll have more personal conversations eventually. i can see that he'd want only japanese speaking people in his restaurant. i saw his movie and he seems very particular.

                                          1. re: trolley

                                            I must say this movie is very well done on many levels that touches on different areas: work ethics/values, family values, personal values, relationships, cultural perspectives, loyalty, and even environmental/ecological awareness and conservation. Not to mention great cello pieces !

                                            I totally understand (as an Asia-born Asian who grew up in Canada) that Jiro et al.'s demeanor and habit may come across being "cold" or "rude" to a N. American or even European customer un-familiar with Japanese/Korean/Chinese customs and habits. Jiro appears to have a pretty somber expression and that itself was clearly illustrated when they talked about how many local customers felt nervous (and even Yamamato-san himself) eating in front of Jiro. And that tied to Takashi's humorous comment how his own restaurant is more casual and relaxed (yet "lower standard" than Jiro's own) hence he charges less $ ;-P So you're absolutely right, the place ain't a Trader Joe's, and non-Japanese nationals need to be sensitive and aware of local customs and values when traveling and interacting with elements of the Japanese (and any) culture.

                                            1. re: LotusRapper

                                              Even among Japanese, he has a reputation as being a curmudgeon. Despite his national treasure status and international acclaim, his restaurant ranks in the mid-200's of sushi shops in Tokyo on Tabelog, the Japanese user-driven restaurant review site that factors in service and atmosphere, as well as food and cost performance, into its' rankings.

                                              1. re: Silverjay

                                                Absolutely. Considering he charges ¥30,000¥ set base price PP (US$320) for dinner, that's not gonna bode well for the have-been patrons who expected quantity over quality, or a menu repertoire that is more than his sushi-only selection. Unless a patron can cast aside pre-conceptions and truly appreciate the food and experience for what it is, the restaurant is not a poster child of "value" by most measures. That's one hell of an expensive omikase:

                                                http://www.sushi-jiro.jp/e-contents/e...

                                                The DVD's special features section, deleted scenes provide other glimpses into the operation and people not shown in the regular 81 minutes main segment.

                                                1. re: LotusRapper

                                                  You misunderstand. The knock on him, even among Japanese, is that he's not pleasant and that he rushes customers. I just listed cost performance to fully explain the parameters of Tabelog's ratings. All the other shops that are in that same stratosphere of pricing are in the top 50 or so. Probably in the top 25. His disciple, Mizutani, has been in the top 10 for years. At this level, diners are very savvy about cost performance. It's not a situation where have-beens with pre-conceptions are expecting quantity over quality and rated him low...Also, the word is "omakase".

                                                  1. re: Silverjay

                                                    yeah i asked my aunt about the restaurant and she said yes, it's famous but way overpriced. and she mentioned she heard the itamae was not very nice. a jerk is a jerk whether you're in tokyo, istanbul, or san francisco aside from cultural differences :)

                                                    1. re: trolley

                                                      I suggested going there years ago with a Japanese friend and he was like "nah, we wouldn't have any fun."..I met the guy who dined with Bourdain when they visited for No Reservations. He said Ono-san was alright that day. I rather enjoyed my meal at Mizutani. He wasn't a ball of laughs, but cracked some jokes and the meal was comfortably paced and of course amazing.

                                        2. Is it my imagination or does Ono Jiro look rather like ET? I swear there's a resemblance! '-)

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            Just watched it as a rental (I know, a year after it came out).

                                            Very cool.

                                            Yes I thought the same thing (Jiro resembling ET). Or it is Yoda ? I can see Jiro disciplining his staff: "Do. Or do not. There is no try !" ;-)

                                          2. I watched this 2 weeks ago and loved it. Yes, it's low key, but it will leave you wanting to go out for sushi, immediately.

                                            We all wondered what the sauce/oil? was that he brushed on the sushi just before he served it. Have never seen it done here on the east coast.

                                            Very cool movie, Jiro's devotion to good sushi is admirable.

                                            I came back to Edit after reading the articles about Jiro and his rudeness, I would not dine there even if for free. How arrogant he is. What a shame.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Nanzi

                                              The sauce they brush onto each piece of nigiri is called "nikiri", best explained here:

                                              http://learnhowtomakesushi.wordpress....

                                              In the movie DVD under special features -> deleted scenes, there is a section about the "mystery sauce". Yoshikazu explains it's a reduction of soy and sake.

                                              1. re: Nanzi

                                                re: the sauce / nikiri - any of the top places in the US do this. Every top place in NY does this.

                                                I was just in Tokyo and ate at one very top restaurant (3 michelin star) and one very good one (i think like 1 michelin star).

                                                Experience: The actual experience here vs Japan at a top place is fairly similar. Although to be fair i can't speak japanese, so it maybe different if you can.

                                                Food: The quality of ingredients was better there (as to be expected) particularly around shellfish. I thought their shellfish absolutely blew any place in NY out of the water by a mile. The fish was very good and better than the top places in NY although I would say that the delta wasn't quite as big although definitely still noticeable.