The film outlines Jiro's incredible dedication to his pursuit of the perfect sushi, the career paths of his sons Yoshikazu and Takashi and various apprentices, the fine details of sushi-making, of selecting the right fish, and so on, interspersed with shots of delicious sushi and set to a Philip Glass soundtrack.
This film contains examples of:
- Always Someone Better:
- Yoshikazu knows that when he eventually inherits the restaurant, he will always be seen as inferior to his father unless his sushi is twice as good as what Jiro made.
- Jiro himself mentions how he wishes he had Joel Robuchon's sense of smell and taste, imagining how good his sushi would be if he was as sensitive as Robuchon.
- Takashi mentions that although he serves the same food as his father, he has to lower his prices to keep customers coming in (of course, reducing it from 30,000 yen—that's $300—isn't that much of a hit), and has two Michelin stars. (Most chefs would kill for just one.)
- Food Porn: One common reaction to the movie is that it's 82 minutes of just pure food porn. It is. The ingredients and sushi are all lovingly and artfully presented; many who see the movie say that if you haven't eaten immediately before watching, you'd better have reservations right afterward, because you will be hungry.
- Heir to the Dojo: Jiro pushed his sons into sushi-making, when they had dreams of going to college and doing other things (Yoshikazu mentions wishing he had had the chance to be a racing driver). Yoshikazu will inherit Jiro's restaurant, while Takashi runs a literal mirror-image (because Takashi is right-handed where Jiro is left-handed) branch restaurant in Roppongi Hills. Because of their training from a young age, they were top-notch sushi chefs far younger than average.
- Minimalism: An ongoing theme. The cinematography is very simple. Jiro's sushi preparations are noted to be absolutely minimalistic and pure—no fancy multi-layered rolls for him. And the soundtrack is dominated by Philip Glass, the canonical Minimalist composer.
- Tokyo Subways: Sukiyabashi Jiro is located just outside the ticket gates at Ginza Station on the Tokyo Metro.
- Supreme Chef: Jiro and his sons are all legendary sushi chefs.
- Training from Hell: Jiro's apprentices start by squeezing the hot towels presented to the guests. The water is scalding and burns their hands—but if the apprentice can't hand-squeeze the towels, he won't be able to hack the next ten years of training.
- Workaholic: Jiro works from 5AM to 10 PM. He hates holidays; he'd always rather be working.