According to today’s New York Times, the famous sushi chef Kazunori Nowaza is retiring at age 66. He plied his trade at a restaurant called Sushi Nozawa in Studio City, California, which closes today.
When I was younger the thought of raw fish made me gag, but somehow I’ve grown to love it over the years. It’s an acquired, adult taste, like beer or hot dogs with mustard (in many places in Chicago they won’t even let you put ketchup on your dog).
But let’s investigate another sushi restaurant, perhaps the world’s most famous one. It’s a small, ten-seat restaurant located underground at a Tokyo subway stop, and is called called Sukiyayabashi Jiro. The owner, Jiro Ono, is 85, and is still at it.
Jiro was called the “best sushi chef in the world” by Anthony Bourdain, and his hole-in-the-wall has three Michelin stars. Here’s Bourdain’s visit as shown on his show No Reservations:
$300 a pop, and the meal is short, but I’d love to go!
They’ve just released a documentary about the owner called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” and it’s supposed to be pretty good. Here’s part of a review at the Hollywood Reporter:
Shooting mostly in the 10-seater basement restaurant Sukiyayabashi Jiro (whose menu starts at around $300 minimum) in Ginza, the feature itself is largely squashed inside the chef’s small, meticulously routine world. Interviews with Jiro, his sons, his apprentices and food critics concur on his perfectionist attitude — not surprising if one is familiar with Japanese reverence for “shokunin” (artisan’s) dedicated work ethic.
Still, the lengths Jiro takes to maintain and improve his standards — from never taking a day off except to go to funerals, to massaging an octopus for 50 minutes, to customizing plate layout for left-handed customers — have their amusement value. Conversations with his sons Yoshikazu and Takashi elicit sympathy for the pressure one would expect they’re under to sustain the restaurant’s reputation in the long term. The most touching anecdote comes from an apprentice’s account of how he wept when Jiro finally gave his approval to his egg dish after rejecting the previous 200 he made.
And here’s the trailer: