Called kaitenzushi in Japanese, this fast food-style sushi is usually something most first visitors include on their list of things to do while in Japan. Believe it or not, the first time I went to one was about three years after I began living here, to a big chain Kappa Sushi restaurant. Besides the little sushi bullet train that comes and delivers your food, I wasn’t too impressed. The taste was mediocre at best, and that’s really saying something because growing up in a family that never ate seafood I still can’t even tell a difference in taste between most kinds of fish.
But the day before Setsubun (Spring Equinox), my husband and I decided to pay a visit to another chain restaurant near our apartment. We both had work on Monday and weren’t planning on eating the now-traditional ehōmaki. Kaitenzushi‘s become a lot more appealing since my first visit; it’s even more convenient now and the dish options are infinitely better.
First off if you’re a foreigner getting by on little Japanese, you’ll appreciate different touch screen menu language options most of the big chains now have. The Sushirō near our house offers English, Korean, and Chinese menus as you can see here.
And don’t get me wrong I like fish, but between seafood and almost any other food with meat or cheese, sushi would definitely lose in my book almost every time. Before you’d only go out for sushi if everyone was in the mood, but now kaitenzushi places are starting to cater to customers that may not just want the traditional fare or kid-friendly options. You can find a number of cooked fish, cheese, basil, avocado, and meat sushi choices. Or if you’re not big on sushi, most chains now offer a large selection of sides including salads, fried foods, soups, udon, and desserts. My favorite one at Sushirō is the egg tart. The Hamazushi chain offers a pretty good American-style chocolate cake.
There’s also the ease of kaitenzushi when my husband decides to eat out with his co-worker buddies after work and I’m left to fend for myself but don’t feel like cooking or a bentō. Normally I don’t like to dine by myself, but the counter seat set up is perfectly designed to accommodate single diners. Of course it’s convenient that you only have to pay for as much food as you take so it doesn’t matter if I’m only looking for a light meal, too.
But the best feature? Some of the bigger chains now let you arrange takeout orders using an iPhone application. If you were springing for a party you used to have to call or go in and reserve in advance, which I found annoying when I didn’t always know what I wanted on the spot or have a full menu handy. Now I can just punch in whatever from home and run over to pick it up when it’s done. No hassle or fuss! Here’s a link to Sushirō’s and Kappa Sushi’s. Most big chains probably have one or have one in the works, too!
I think the only thing that would make kaitenzushi better would be if they started doing delivery. 😉
P.S. If you ever want to try ehōmaki in the future, most kaitenzushi places offer advance reservation and day-of pick-up. Here’s a flyer I nabbed from Sushirō on the way out.