Monday, December 7, 2009

Conveyor Belt Sushi revisited

I’m not a sushi snob. Though I have all the right in the world to be. I’ve spent many a miserable weekend slaving over slabs of fish, mountains of rice and endless nori sheets at a certain sushi establishment, where I was one of only two gaijin allowed in the kitchen (the other was proprietor’s husband). So yeah, I’ve paid my sushi dues. And believe me, there’s nothing to make you appreciate sushi like getting up at the crack of dawn to receive a shipment of fish.

And so it’s somewhat amusing when I hear (or read) comments from foreigners in Japan that go more or less like this: “I haven’t had any good sushi in (insert a city name here) yet, but then again, I’ve only been to the conveyor belt sushi places so far.” Why is it funny? Because most of those people wouldn't know good sushi if it hit them in the face (or sat on a plate in front of them).

Genki inside 2 x500

Somehow, the general idea that most visitors to Japan seem to have is that if you didn’t eat it at Tsukiji (or spend untold thousands of yen on it elsewhere) then it wasn’t good sushi.

I had a boss once who whenever she heard that comment from someone, she would invite them over for a sushi party at her house. She would get takeout from a conveyor belt restaurant, place it in a really fancy box from somewhere else and serve it in a very elaborate setting. And how many people who said, “I haven’t had any good sushi here yet, but then again, I’ve only been to the conveyor belt sushi places so far” realized they were being fed conveyor belt sushi? None. Ten out of ten oooohed and aaahed over the “expensive,” “gorgeous” and “amazing” fish and happily chomped it down in blissful ignorance.

Such attitude is not unique to foreigners. My own mother in law will not eat sashimi from Tairaya (a supermarket chain), because as she says, “it’s awful”. However, sashimi from Otani (a different supermarket chain) is acceptable to her. Yet when raw fish was bought at Tairaya and put it on a plate in front of her without announcing where it had come from, she proclaimed it “fresh” and “delicious”. The poor woman wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near a conveyor belt restaurant, but I very much doubt if she could spot or taste the difference. But I guess those are the perils of being a raw fish snob.

Personally, I have nothing against conveyor belt sushi restaurants. They serve a purpose, namely – they’re cheap. And they serve it well.

And if they were really as bad as some foreigners seem to think, then there wouldn’t be gazillions of them all over the country. I like them. I eat at them. But then again, I’m a cheapskate.

Belt sushi

I like that fact that everything at Sushiro is 100 yen (plus tax), because I'm not a fan of the different color plate - different price system at Genki Sushi.

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