Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kaiten-zushi

On 11th February, hubby and I had dinner at a kaiten-zushi restaurant named Ichiba no sushiyasan in Akita city. This restaurant is located inside a wholesale market named Akita marugoto ichiba which is known as ‘the kitchen of Akita’ and offers best fresh local food products.
Front of Ichiba no sushiyasan restaurant


Nowadays people the world over are quite familiar with the Japanese cuisine sushi. However, I have realized that my friends from India often get confused between sushi and sashimi (raw fish). So I will briefly explain about sushi. Sushi is cooked vinegar rice that is commonly topped with raw fish or put into rolls. Depending upon the fillings and toppings, condiments, and the way the ingredients are put together, sushi can be broadly classified into four types. The first type of sushi called nigirizushi is hand-pressed mound of rice with a bit of wasabi and a slice of raw fish/shellfish/other ingredients on top. The second type called makizushi is cylindrical sushi roll wrapped in nori seaweed. The third type called inarizushi is deep-fried tofu pouch stuffed with sushi rice. The fourth type called chirashizushi is a spread of various ingredients like fish, mushroom, omelette, and seaweed over seasoned rice on a dish. Soy sauce and wasabi are most important seasonings for sushi. Soy sauce is used as dipping sauce. Wasabi is put in nigirizushi or is mixed with soy sauce for dipping. Pickled ginger called gari is served as a side ingredient with sushi, which is eaten between bites of sushi to refresh the mouth.

Hubby and I had been to a kaiten-zushi restaurant. Kaiten-zushi is a sushi restaurant where the plates containing sushi are placed on a rotating conveyor belt that winds through the restaurant and moves past every table and counter seat (sushi bar). Customers sitting on the counter seat face the conveyor belt, and pick their selections from a steady stream of sushi moving along the conveyor belt. In addition, there are tables placed at right angles to the conveyor belt, allowing a group of up to six people to sit at one table. Two people sitting at the table who are nearest to the conveyer belt usually pick up the plates of sushi selected by others in the group. The usual speed of conveyor belt is about 8 cm per second which is slow enough to ensure safe transport of sushi and fast enough to bring enough volume and varieties to the customers.
Sushi plates on a conveyor belt


Kaiten-zushi restaurants are usually considered towards the bottom end of both price and quality as compared to traditional sushi restaurants. However, it is very popular nowadays. For foreigners like me with limited Japanese language skills, this type of sushi restaurant is really convenient as we can just pick our choice of sushi from the conveyor belt without worrying about the proper reading and pronunciation of the kanji characters for that particular sushi and ordering it. A remarkable feature of kaiten-zushi is the stream of plates winding through the restaurant. The selection is usually not limited to sushi, and often includes fruits, drinks, desserts, and soups. If customers cannot find their desired sushi, they can make special orders. If a small quantity of sushi is ordered, it is placed on the conveyor belt but marked so that other customers know that the dish was ordered by someone. Tools and condiments like chopsticks, gari pickled ginger, soy sauce, and small dishes for soy sauce are usually found near the seats. Often self-served tea is complimentary with cups stacked on a shelf and green tea powder or teabags kept in a storage container on the sushi bar counter or tables. There is also a hot water faucet at the counter or tables to make tea.
Sushi conveyor belt, a box of gari pickled ginger, and hot water faucet at the bar counter

Hubby making hot green tea


Hubby and I had various kinds of sushi at kaiten-zushi restaurant. Sushi is generally served in pairs at this type of restaurant. So we both had one sushi piece each from every plate we selected. Therefore we could enjoy the taste of several kinds of sushi. We had nigirizushi of anago (eel), maguro (tuna), kanburi (yellowtail), tamagoyaki (egg omelette), aburi salmon, and aburi engawa. Engawa is the thin muscle of the dorsal fin of hirame (flounder). Aburi means roasted sushi where the fish topping is seared with a blowtorch, and is partly grilled and partly raw. The taste of aburi sushi is just amazing. We also had special type of nigirizushi called gunkanmaki, which is an oval, hand-formed mound of sushi rice with a strip of nori seaweed wrapped around its perimeter to form a vessel that is filled with some soft, loose or fine-chopped ingredients. We had gunkanmaki of tako salada (salad of octopus and mayonnaise) and uni (sea urchin). In addition, we had makizushi of kanikama (crab stick). We also ordered atsuyaki tamago (thick tamagoyaki), the taste of which is considered to be a good measure of the quality and skills of a sushi restaurant. The omelette was light, fluffy, and delicious. Hubby had a bowl of ebi (shrimp) miso soup to go along with sushi. We enjoyed our dinner of sushi very much.









Our dinner of various kinds of sushi


Hubby eating sushi

Hubby having soup


After finishing our dinner, we piled the empty plates of sushi one above the other. Hubby then called a restaurant staff, who calculated the bill by counting the number and type of plates of consumed sushi. Plates with different colors, patterns, and shapes have different prices, which ranged from 200 Yen to 800 Yen at this shop. The cost of different plates was indicated on a signboard inside the restaurant.
A pile of empty plates of sushi

A portion of sushi plates showing different colors and patterns


Hubby and I love eating at kaiten-zushi restaurant as we can just pick our choice of sushi from the conveyor belt without worrying about the special language, correct jargon, and culture of traditional sushi shop. Actually my hubby is not much familiar with the special language of traditional sushi shop, even though he is Japanese. I have noticed that most of the people of his generation are not really bothered about using the correct jargon. Therefore kaiten-zushi is very popular nowadays. We liked the sushi of Ichiba no sushiyasan restaurant. I compiled a video of our dinner at this restaurant.


A compiled video of our dinner at Ichiba no sushiyasan

4 comments:

minakshi said...

marvellous and mouth watering

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Minakshi for your comment. We like sushi a lot.

Laya's Blog said...

Manisha,
Though I'm a vegetarian, but I loved the descriptions and the food looks quite sumptuous in the videos and yes the detailed descriptions was interesting. I did know that Japanese used sea weed as an ingredient in their diet and it was healthy, but didn't know how and where they used it. Wasabi and soy sauce seem to make the dish extremely delectable...

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Laya for your comment. And glad to know that you liked the post. Yeah, soy sauce is usually used as the dipping sauce for eating sushi.... Sea weed is used in many recipes..