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‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’

Documentary serves up fine tribute to artisan

by Kaori Shoji

Special To The Japan Times

To describe “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” as a foodie film is akin to picking an English rose and calling it a flower. This documentary by New York-based David Gelb is at once a celebration of one of the world’s most popular and coveted meals, and a firsthand observation of Japan’s most famous sushi chef at work. What unfolds here is less a story than immersion in a painting hung in a exclusive gallery; you find yourself lost in the details of the counter at Sukiyabashi Jiro, and catching your breath at the outrageous beauty of chef Jiro Ono’s omakase (chef’s choice) plate.

The 81 minutes spent in the company of “Jiro-san” (83 years old at the time the film was shot) passes much too fast and there’s hardly time to ponder the incredible fact that this man has toiled behind the counter of his restaurant 16 hours a day for 70 years. In the end there’s a certain sadness, as the film takes on the tinge of a requiem. When Ono is gone, a huge chunk of what we know as Japanese sushi craftsmanship will go with him. An artisanal miracle will disappear. And in the face of this tragedy, all we can do is bow deeply in gratitude and bid it farewell.