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Oct 21, 2012 01:02 AM

Jiro Dreams of Sushi [moved from General Topics]

Never before did I believe a documentary about food, let alone, something that appears as simple as sushi, could bring me to tears. I came away with such an appreciation for the craft, but also an increased jealousy, knowing I'll never have that level of sushi in my life. The man is so humble and so determined to be better that it's not only about a man and his passion, but that perseverance to achieve greatness outweighs all other virtues. The last scenes make me love this man even more, as he praises all of those "beneath him." This is a must see for any fan of foodie. I'm blown away. Just like sushi, this movie's brilliance is captured in it's simplicity and it's desire for perfection.

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  1. It also highlighted the pressure which the eldest-born son faces in any family in Japan. I rather felt sorry for Jiro's first son, and you can also see how his second son seemed to have the leeway to create a more relaxed atmosphere, away from his father's close control.

    I've been lucky to have been to both restaurants, and I also rather preferred the Roppongi Hills outlet which seemed more cheerful, and where the patrons joked and bantered among themselves more. At the original Ginza outlet, even I felt the compulsion to sit ramrod straight & appear "proper" at all times ;-)

    7 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      While I understand the sentiment towards the older son, the film was very careful to show his importance and his abilities, while somewhat downgraded that of the younger sons. The key moment was when they mentioned that Jiro had in fact, never served a Michelin diner and that Yoshikazu was the one who served them each time. A very subtle reference to his mastering of his father's skills.

      I can only imagine the experiences you had and I'm quite envious of you!

      1. re: jhopp217

        True. I think the "quandary" of the first son was also that he's "not" supposed to overshadow or surpass his father in the latter's lifetime, in deference to the elder Ono. Snippets of conversation with Yoshikazu, his own dreams, not of sushi, but of being a race car driver or a pilot was, IMO, pretty sad. But I guess the movie also sought to paint an endearing image of a long-suffering forever-apprentice son: riding a bicycle with a box full of fresh fish from the market, squatting by a tiny brazier in the corridors of the small Ginza building basement toasting sheets of seaweed.

        I was first brought to the Ginza restaurant in 2001 by one of my Tokyo colleagues who loved the original place, and also coincidentally was an 'Ono'. It was mermerising watching Jiro Ono's hands moulding sushi then - almost akin to a flamenco dancer's hands & fingers. He carefully places the sushi in front of you, and the rice was loosely packed - shake it too much and it'll fall apart. Each grain of rice gleamed, shiny & bright - I'd not seen rice with a property like this anywhere else!

        That said, I'm almost ashamed to say that I'm *not* actually a sushi fan, so I rather enjoyed more my visits to Ten-ichi, one of Tokyo's oldest tempura restaurants - a mere 10 minutes' walk away from Sukiyabashi Jiro. The tempura chef we had at Ten-ichi was similarly a perfectionist - he threw away his unused batter and re-mixed a new one every 28 minutes! His ingredients were all sourced from the hills surrounding Tokyo (wild ferns, vegetables) and fresh catch from Tokyo Bay - "only wild eels, no farmed ones", he once told us.

        In the little room where we sat around a counter surrounding the chef, we watched as he deftly fried each morsel then placed the freshly fried piece one at a time on our individual plates, whilst explaining which dip to use (a flavored salt, a dab of soy), it was a performance not unlike Jiro Ono's sushi-making display. A small black-and-white portrait of Frank Sinatra hosting his birthday party in the very same room hung on the wall next to me - it looked like it was shot back in the 1960s.

        1. re: klyeoh

          Wow. As much as Jiro the movie did for me by seeing, was how much your post did by reading. I had a friend tell me today that I must get to Japan. Warning I will never want to leave.

          1. re: jhopp217

            Then, go to Japan you must. And before that - search thru Chowhound's Japan board - you'll see various threads & discussions by Japan-based Hounds like Asomaniac, Silverjay & Uncle Yabai, plus Japanese food lovers like my fellow Singapore Hound, FourSeasons, who'd visited almost *every* 3-Michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo, plus a whole bunch of other great dining places there.

            Tokyo has its own food culture which, although can be overwhelmingly "Japanese" at times, can also be rich & varied. Once, on a whim, a Singaporean colleague & I decided to "go Indian" for the whole 2 weeks of our visit to Tokyo. No particular reason for doing so, except perhaps that it was our 4th trip to Tokyo that year alone, and we wanted to do something "different" and which would become a topic of conversation once we get home to Singapore. Well, it turned out that we *can* actually find good Indian restaurants if we care to look carefully for them (although we also landed on quite a few duds) - 14 Indian restaurants in one Tokyo trip! I felt like I'd had curry coming out of my ears :-D

            Another place you *must* not miss if you visit Tokyo is Tsukiji Market. It *is* as interesting, if not more so, as shown in the movie. The tuna auctions were incredibly entertaining, but the vast array of fresh seafood on sale there were eye-popping!

            1. re: klyeoh

              As I'm reading this, I'm checking Twitter and Chris Cosentino is in Tsukiji Market and posting pictures of things I've never heard of, such as Blood Clams. Not to mention sushi knives that look like medieval weapons. Thanks for all the suggestions. I don't know if I could eat Indian 14 meals in one week.

        2. re: jhopp217

          It was fascinating seeing the juxtoposition of the sons. Because the other takeaway I had was the younger sons had more of a joy of life, while the older son seemed awfully burdened.

          1. re: FattyDumplin

            Precisely. Well, Jiro Ono's son #2 actually got it lucky - it did seem like he's given some assistance by the father to set up his "own" restaurant. Traditional Japanese follows the rule of primogeniture whereby the first-born son inherits the *entire* estate of the father, to the exclusion of his younger siblings. That practice did exarcebate the large-scale migration of the Japanese post-WWII to Brazil & other other countries - most of those migrants are second-born or younger sons who stood to gain *nothing* from whatever little was left of their family's assets. It was either you go out & find your own fortune, or you stay & die.

      2. In addition to the unrelenting quest for perfection throughout the chain from purchase to service, i was equally blown away by the cutlery and exquisite knife skills demonstrated throughout the video. Watching that was an epiphany for me.

          1. re: babette feasts

            +2 This film moved me in ways similar to the OP. The work ethic he committed himself to and the respect he earned from his purveyors was impressive, to say the least.

          2. I loved the attention to the slightest,seemingly insignificant details. The seating arrangements,is the diner right or left handed,male or female diners and the portion size? Amazing.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Duppie

              That was amazing. I ctually got this movie after seeing Anthony Bourdain's trip there on youtube. I was amazed at not only the skill, but the speed at which each course was served. I also was surprised that other than the initial scene, none of the diners used chopsticks.

              1. re: jhopp217

                I am sure someone more knowledgeable about sushi can comment, but it is my understanding that you should use your hands when eating nigiri.

              2. re: Duppie

                I wondered how a Japanese female diner with a healthy appetite would feel, as she'll pieces of sushi smaller than her male counterparts', on the basis of her gender! :-D

                1. re: klyeoh

                  When he said that, you saw surprise on their faces. I was under the impression it was so skillfully done, it probably wasn't noticeable by the diners. I could be completely wrong, but my assumption was the amount of rice was less, not the size of the piece of fish.

                  1. re: jhopp217

                    I would tent to believe so,like everything Jiro does I would think it would be very subtle.

                    1. re: jhopp217

                      Isn't that sexual discrimination? I wonder what he would do with a female diner of "larger" size sitting in front of him.

                      1. re: huiray

                        Japan doesn't have the best track record for gender equality.