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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Relish a raw-as-sushi homage

You may never want to eat sushi again after watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a tasty documentary about an 85-year-old who's widely regarded as the world's best sushi chef… unless it's handmade by him, of course.
The Business Times - July 27, 2012
By: Dylan Tan
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Relish a raw-as-sushi homage National treasure: Master sushi chef Jiro Ono (far left) and his team creating sushi. Chef Jiro, featured in the documentary film, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, shot to international fame when the Michelin guide gave his tiny sushi bar the highest accolade of thr

YOU may never want to eat sushi again after watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a tasty documentary about an 85-year-old who's widely regarded as the world's best sushi chef… unless it's handmade by him, of course.

Director David Gelb's portrait of Jiro Ono - the stoic founder of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Tokyo - is made even more appetising with all that mouth-watering close-ups of Ono's masterpieces and his movie is largely a no-frills affairs that's as minimalist as his subject's handiwork.

Yet the easier it looks, the more difficult it actually is, as Ono tells the camera. To say the latter is serious about his craft is an understatement considering he's been perfecting it for the last seven decades. And he still loves every minute of it. Hell, the man doesn't even like taking holidays.

Instead, Ono's happiness comes from serving his customers inside his 10-seater sushi-only restaurant and making sure his two sons inherit all the right skills to keep the business going.

Gelb captures the perfectionist in Ono delicately with footage of him working behind his counter and then editing it in operatic slow motion to the film's classical music soundtrack.

All that is beautiful and moving the first couple of times you see it, but somewhat loses its effect gradually and becomes a drag when it's used repeatedly throughout the film.

But don't let Ono hear that because he believes the art of making great sushi comes from the ability to do the same thing again and again until it's perfected.

The technique might work in the kitchen but on the big screen, it feels like Gelb is buying time rather than imitating the sushi master cinematically.

Still, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a fascinating portrayal of a culture and generation that thrives on hard work as the underlying principle that there's no such thing as a shortcut to success.

Echoed by everyone from Ono to his suppliers, it's a business trait that's slowly being lost in this age of fishy get-rich-quick schemes dreamt up by young Internet entrepreneurs.

Same way it will require a bit of patience on the audience's part to sit through this very simple but inspiring story about a man who's been regarded by the Japanese government as a national treasure. One thing's for sure, you'll never look at a piece of sushi the same way ever again.

Rating: B

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