David Gelb's gorgeous documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, currently playing at the IFC Center in New York City's West Village, delivers the tastes, textures, colors, and tranquility of a nearly perfect sushi omakase better than any 3-D technology ever could. I say "nearly perfect" because the film's subject, Jiro Ono, has been striving and aspiring toward perfection for upward of 85 years. Jiro chases perfection relentlessly, knowing all the while that he can never attain it. Yet it is precisely the pursuit toward what Jiro terms "deliciousness" that fills his existence with meaning.
Among Jiro's fans are Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, and Joël Robuchon, not to mention the anonymous Michelin inspectors who overlooked the fact that Jiro's restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, is a simple 10-seater located in the bowels of Tokyo's subway system. But Jiro and his son, who has been quietly apprenticing under his father his entire life and continues to do so even as he himself approaches old age, have achieved a level of contentment and satisfaction that only comes when one has truly mastered his life's work; when the peace and joy from doing what one loves becomes their legacy.
I promised my editor I would refrain from using the now tired and overused phrase "food porn" in this review. Suffice it to say that there is much moaning and closed eye-rolling during the movie, both by Jiro's lucky patrons on the screen and the audience. I smuggled a box of Pocky into the theater, a Japanese snack food best described as micro-thin biscuit sticks enrobed partially in chocolate. If not for my trusty Pocky sticks, I would have chewed off the upholstery on my seat watching Jiro dab each pristine piece of fish with his soy brush, an artist in every sense of the word as skilled as any painter who has ever lived.