Sushiro’s arrival heralds the resurgence of conveyor-belt sushi.
It has been more than two years since Sushiro debuted in Hong Kong. Locals still flock to this insanely popular Japanese kaiten-zushi (conveyor-belt sushi) chain every day for their value-for-money sushi. Their mobile app (Chinese only: IOS, Android) allows you to view the queuing status of their establishments across the city, but no reservations are accepted. Nevertheless, these deterrents don’t seem to keep diners away.
I was intrigued to find out if Sushiro is worth all the hype.
Founded in 1984, with more than 530 branches at home and abroad, Sushiro boasts the highest sales of any kaiten-zushi chain in Japan. They currently operate 12 branches in Hong Kong. With travel-starved Hong Kongers still not able to visit their favourite tourist destination just yet, Sushiro seems to be an affordable go-to for locals to grab a slice of Japan.
I visited the Sheung Wan branch on a Friday afternoon at around 4:15pm for a queue ticket, assuming that I could avoid the crowds. But it was just my wishful thinking! After waiting for about 75 minutes, I finally found myself sitting at a comfortable four-person booth next to the revolving belt of sushi plates. The atmosphere of the restaurant is bright and warm and has a friendly vibe, reassuring diners that the long wait is worthwhile.
Like most Japanese restaurants maintaining high standards of hygiene, my booth was spotlessly clean, and the sushi accompaniments were neatly arranged. The friendly server came back with an oshibori (wet wipe) and two small plastic bags for me, and he offered to give me a brief introduction on their ordering system. Sushiro’s unique, two-tiered conveyor belts allow diners to either choose sushi plates from the normal rotating lane or to order à-la-carte dishes via a touchscreen panel (only four à-la-carte dishes can be selected each time and are delivered on a separate belt). A 60-minute time limit is applied to each table unless there is no queue outside the restaurant, which is almost impossible.
I felt a sudden flare of happiness while scrolling through the touch panel with its slew of varieties available, ranging from Sushiro’s monthly recommendations, to limited-time specials, to nigiri, to gunkan maki, to hot side dishes, beverages and desserts. Their colour-coded sushi plates are priced between $12–27, so you don’t need to worry about breaking the bank if you feel the urge to try as many items as you can fit inside your tummy.
Ding, ding! The sound of the call bell signalled that my order was ready, and my à-la-carte sushi plates were rolling by on the conveyor belt. I was particularly impressed by the extra-fatty tuna ($27), glistening with a reddish lustre, a sought-after item at Sushiro. The buttery, umami flavour and melt-in-the-mouth texture prove that Sushiro doesn’t sacrifice quality for a budget-friendly price tag.
The Japanese marbled Wagyu ($27), garnished with wasabi and citrus vinegar jelly, was equally palatable. Although the sushi rice is not at expert level, the various sushi plates I tasted, including yellowtail ($17), Japanese horse mackerel ($12), Japanese scallop ($22) and sea urchin wrap ($27), were all of satisfactory quality and exceeded my expectations.
The marinated mackerel oshizushi ($22), or pressed sushi, was also pleasantly satisfactory. The firm-textured rice merged with the distinctive citrusy flavour of the fish made my taste buds tingle. I was told that this dish is only available for takeaway back at Sushiro in Japan. If you like the taste of Japanese-style marinade, this is a sushi plate not to miss.
My heart leapt with happiness eating one mouthful of sushi after another, and there was a brief moment that I forgot I was in Hong Kong. In fact, I didn’t feel the need to rush within the 60-minute time limit as the technology-driven dine-in experience is quite hassle free, and you can press the button if a server’s assistance is needed. I also found it amusing to see the servers walking around holding sushi plates fresh from the kitchen, calling for takers.
Chawanmushi ($19), or steamed egg custard, is a small bowl that I normally prefer to enjoy after the cold sushi dishes. The silky-smooth texture packed with scallop and mushroom embraced me with Buddha-like warmth.
With my tummy full of fish bliss, the Hokkaido pumpkin burnt cream ($17), advertised as an autumn limited special, caught my attention. This beautiful, lightly caramelised dessert certainly added extra points to my overall rating of Sushiro.
Sushiro has been doing a great job in retaining customers’ attention with periodic updates of their menu and releases of limited-time specials. Fans can also propose ideas and share their favourite items on social media, and the team will make an effort to accommodate. Perhaps these are additional reasons why diners keep coming back time and time again, not bothered by the long queues.
Sushi is one of Japan’s many wonderful gifts to diners, and I got a spacious booth at Sushiro for a happy solo meal. Arigato gozaimasu!
For more reviews like this, like Foodie on Facebook