Jiro Dreams of Sushi: 30 Minutes of Pure Magic

Jiro Dreams of Sushi: 30 Minutes of Pure Magic

Jiro. 30 minutes. 21 courses. Mind-blowingly surreal.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi – A movie that left many around the world hopelessly in awe of the art of sushi-making. A meal at Jiro’s seemed to be a spectacularly exquisite experience that will forever remain exclusively out of reach.

Or so I thought.

For those that didn’t watch the movie (which you totally should!), get a summary by watching the trailer:

I just knew I had to experience a meal at Jiro’s. I was ready to jump through hoops and go out on a limb (or two!) to secure a reservation, but landing a spot was actually much easier than I anticipated, in no small part aided by the helpful staff at my hotel. I emailed the hotel before my stay with my earnest request and voila! They managed to secure a lunch reservation for me – and on Christmas Eve no less!

Tip: Jiro accepts reservations on the first working day of the month of the following month – so plan early and secure your spot!

I was exhilarated. I was nervous. I was excited, to say the least. Securing the reservation definitely felt like Christmas came early that year. Jiro only serves an Omakase Menu (a type of meal whereby dishes are selected by the chef). In other words, you take what is served. There’s no room for picky eaters at Jiro’s! Sushi etiquette is of the utmost priority, and for those who are unfamiliar, there is an entire page of their website dedicated to educating the ignorant. Do some reading up before you go to avoid any embarrassment, or worse, risk offending the sushi chef!

jiro dreams of sushiImage credit: Chris Chen

Tip: One of the biggest faux pas would be to separate the sushi topping from the rice. It’s of greatest insult to the sushi chef, so we are told. Never, never, never do such a thing!

Also read: 10 Things That Are Rude to a Japanese But Not to a You

I couldn’t help but arrive early, bubbles of anticipation fizzing deep within my gut. Hesitant to disrupt in any way, I hovered outside until 5 minutes before my reservation timing before sliding the wooden door open. The only English-speaking apprentice came to my rescue after a couple of failed introductory phrases on my part – Phew! The place was only filled to half capacity; lo and behold, I even spotted Masuhiro Yamamoto, the famous food critic from the movie itself!

He’s the one decked out in black, and yes, I only managed to sneak a photo of his back. As you can imagine, the mood was pretty intense.

Jiro-san and Jiro-Jnr were poised silently behind the counter, peering intently at me from behind their rimless glasses. The place buzzed with activity around them, with assistants weaving their way between seats, hands full of towels, tea, sauces… the works! The English-speaking apprentice came to tell us what was on the menu for the day and naturally, we nodded in consent – anyone who dared to question Jiro’s choices would seriously be out of their minds!

Jiro-San already started work on the first course before the apprentice left our side – and that was how the meal was to be. Prompt. Precise. Professional. With no space for dawdling or tomfoolery. Jiro’s Sushi was the real deal.

As you might have guessed, eating at Jiro’s can be a fairly intimidating affair. There’s so many things going on at once – the bustling assistants wiping your sushi plate and refilling your tea, catching you if you “sin” (like the American lady who tried to put pickled ginger on top of her sushi), and you barely have the time to focus fully on the sushi. But take it from me: the sushi is mind-blowingly good. There is a delicate interplay of flavours, creating the perfect balance between the temperature and marinade of the rice, as well as the amount and seasoning of the fish.

Image credit: Chris Chen

You do not go to Jiro to eat sushi, you go to Jiro to be part of his world. If only for a fleeting 30 minutes.

Image credit: Leon Brocard

You go to Jiro to learn the meaning of respect, to appreciate artistry. You go to Jiro to see the world as he wishes it to be seen; you go to Jiro to taste his past, his present, and to imagine his future.

Image credit: Chris Chen

Jiro spares no expense to serve you the best; you get only the prime centre cuts of huge palm sized abalones. You can taste and smell the hay that he uses to smoke his fish. You get a glimpse of probably the final tenth of the work that goes into each perfect morsel of sushi – you know full well that the piece of sushi is the fruit of hours of behind-the-scenes preparation. You feel humbled knowing that you are part of something bigger, that there is much more than meets the eye.

I reckon that to truly enjoy a meal at Jiro’s, one has to visit him a few times in order to be completely comfortable in the presence of the exacting master. Dining at Jiro’s culminates in a sensory overload, not to be distracted would be a hard feat indeed.

Also read: 12 Underrated Foods You Should Never Leave Japan Without Trying

The 21 courses of sushi finally came to an end – yes, 21 courses – and a thick slice of melon completed the experience.

The greatest honour of the entire night would be the opportunity to take a photo with the grand master himself. This photo’s definitely going to take up prime display space on my mantelpiece back home!

So is dining at Jiro’s worth it? The decision is entirely yours, but it’s not everyday that one gets the chance to witness magic, or witness 60 years of experience condensed into a mere 30 minutes. I am glad that I did with Jiro. Arigato!

Also read: Tokyo Bucket List: 20 Challenges For Your Next Trip

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