Monday, December 30, 2013

If chemists don't dream of sushi, then what do they dream of?

If you've got $300 and 15 minutes to spare, then there may be no better place to use both up at the same time than Jiro Ono's restaurant in downtown Tokyo. It's omakase, which means chef's choice and is roughly equivalent to prix fixe. Sukiyabashi Jiro is known for ultra-high-quality ingredients and perfect execution of sushi. Jiro's plating is also fast. (The 10 seats at the bar are said to turn over every 15 minutes though I haven't had a chance to confirm it. The twenty "courses" definitely come lightning quick.) The movie, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," didn't quite emphasize such cold precision in romanticizing his artistry and drive for excellence. Nevertheless, I see all such traits in most successful chemists. Sadly, I have not been to Sukiyabashi Jiro. But I do know quite a few awesome chemists, and have had a chance to see them practice their craft with similar creative precision. 

I wonder what other chemists dream about if not Jiro's sushi? The shape of a nano crystal, the reorganization of atoms through synthetic steps, the dance of symbols in mathematical equations, teasing out the composition of an unknown object, or something else entirely. I dream about how each part of a molecule or a material makes the whole while still remaining a part. Each element is a building block and yet its action is modified by the atoms it is attached to. Putting many molecules together gives rise to so-called emergent behavior in which the collection of molecules together acts entirely differently than any one molecule within. The problem is predicting how it will act (its function.) Their motion and the equations that orchestrate them is what I dream about. 

But I also dream about eating perfectly selected and constructed sushi. Perhaps, I'll have a chance to eat at Sushi Nakayama in NYC? Its eponymous chef was Jiro's apprentice. At the very least he can make tamago as good as what you get at Jiro's. Trouble is that Nakayama's 10 bar seats are about as hard to get as Jiro's. So I'll have to stick to hanging out with chemists.  


  1. Omakase at the bar is a wonderful way to eat...I had that twice while we were in Kyoto, neither as pricey nor as wondrous as Jiro's I'm sure, but still a delight to throw yourself into the chanciness of it all. Our chef was doing different dishes for each of the two groups at the counter, but riffing off of each other.

    1. That sounds like fun Michelle! Omakase is an adventure, and I can't wait for my next one...

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  3. I love food which is made exquisitely. and I believe Jiro Ono's restaurant is a great place for me to have a try next time. and through that picture, I can image that food nutrition in this restaurant will be really great.