So What’s It Really Like Dining At Jiro?

You really don’t want to become a movie star. You’ll attract the wrong sort.

That’s what my mom always said to me. And that’s what I think has happened to Jiro, who dreams of sushi.

Sadly, I appear to be that wrong sort.

I managed to get a reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro, one of the two restaurants made world-famous by the documentary “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi.”

You’ll be wondering how I did this. Well, I asked the concierge at the Park Hotel in Tokyo a few days before.

It was nothing more than that.

I had heard that the Roppongi Jiro, run by Jiro Ono’s son Takashi, was a little more relaxed than the original, at which reservations reportedly aren’t accepted unless you’re accompanied by a local.

I had also heard that the Roppongi Jiro was sometimes not exactly full.

Perhaps fame doesn’t always bring fortune.

It’s a simple place beneath a posh apartment building.

For a traditional restaurant, it seems very out of place. Google’s headquarters is next door.

Sukibayashi Jiro is just one sushi bar that seats perhaps 10 and a couple of tables.

You sit at the bar, you are asked about your allergies and what drink you’d like.

Then the feeding begins.

I use my words deliberately. You don’t dine, you are fed. Which means that you must eat at the chef’s pace, not yours.

You are less of a customer and more of a prize farm animal, who should be grateful to have your snout in this exquisite trough.

You should treat the chef not merely with respect, but with the same reverence a dachshund has for its owner.

You should act as if you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, if there ever will ever be one.

It's lovely. The sushi, that is.

It’s lovely. The sushi, that is.

One notable feature was that not one of the customers was local. Everyone was here because of the movie. Everyone was from somewhere else. Everyone.

Actually, by “everyone”, I mean precisely six people.

This was problematic.

Very soon, a nice Russian lady leaned over and asked me: “So you’re here because of the movie?”

In my ignorance, I replied. In her ignorance, she laughed.

We were immediately doomed. Being Russian, Irina liked to chat. She was curious. She thought she was in a restaurant.

Instead, she was in church and she’d talked during the sermon.

This was disrespectful to the pastor. It also meant that, if you joined in the conversation, both of you wouldn’t be eating at the chef’s pace. Which meant the chef would be fuming.

He’s not there for you. You’re there for him.

Your allotted time was 90 minutes. But Ono wanted you out in 60.

Irina got into huge trouble. Oh, no.

She was eating so slowly that chef began to tap on the bar in front of her, in an attempt to get her to hurry up.

You can decide that this was charming. Or you can decide that he’s a little bit of a tosser.

The sushi was wonderful. Each piece put together less with love and more with an artisan’s swift, precise skills.

Some fish is cut. A hand goes inside the rice container. The two are brought together.

There might be a little wasabi added. The finished product then gets a glazing.

You have two minutes to eat.

This is not a joke. Well, I’m not joking, at least.

The fish comes thick and thin and fast.

It’s by turns soft, crunchy, meaty, fatty and, well, eggy.

But you don’t have time to savor, or even to anticipate. You’re there to be fed. Force fed.

You’re there to be charged and, just occasionally, sneered at.

You’re certainly not there to talk.

The bill comes without you asking for it. It comes, at least in my case, without even being offered dessert.

This wasn’t what I’d dreamed of. But it was what I’d feared.

Earlier in the week when I’d eaten at the sublime Sakura Sakura, Chef Hiroshi Hanajima came out at the end of the meal to give us his business card.

He just wanted to thank us for being there and dining with him.

When we got up to leave at Jiro Roppongi, Chef Takashi Ono turned his back.

Just like us, I think he was fed up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a reply.