I’ve just been to see Jiro Dreams of Sushi and I think you should go and see it too. In fact, a lot of other people think you should go and see it. It has a rating of 7.8 on the IMDb and a 99% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Guardian film reviewer loved it; the Telegraph film reviewer loved it; the Observer film reviewer loved it…and so on. You get the picture. So what is it? A documentary about a sushi restaurant, that’s what. But it’s not your average sushi restaurant.
For one thing, it has three Michelin stars – their highest accolade. Yet it’s a tiny place with seats for only ten people at a time and the owner and sushi chef, Jiro, is now in his eighties. He works every day, never takes a holiday and his objective is to make the best sushi he possibly can.
The way he does that is by perfectionism and the relentless pursuit of simplicity. His greatest compliment is ‘shokuin’ – literally meaning a member of staff but conveying a sense of dedication over a long period.
Working with him are his son and a tiny team of sushi chefs who serve apprenticeships of ten years before they’re even allowed to start making the sushi. We meet them, and his suppliers of fish (the best Tokyo’s Tsukiji market can provide) and rice, and we join him on a visit to childhood friends and his father’s grave.
It’s a beautifully-paced film – you just relax into it and let it answer all your questions before you knew you had them. It was made in 2011 by David Gelb, an American documentary maker. The music is by Philip Glass, which Gelb deliberately uses to give the film a classical feel. It’s a perfect fit. You come out feeling as though you’ve somehow become a better person just by watching it.
It’s showing at the ICA until 31 January.