It’s not necessarily a bad thing that the sushi was unique…but it sure surprised Seiji!
Our Japanese language reporter Seiji Nakazawa was on a whirlwind trip around the U.K. recently, exploring haunted castles and becoming an international rock sensation. But a long trip can be exhausting, and sometimes you just want some comforting food from home when you’ve been on the road for a while. That’s why, upon finding his stomach rumbling after a long wander around London, Seiji stopped by a branch of the U.K.’s premier rotating sushi chain, Yo! Sushi, near Waterloo Station for a little taste of home.
What he ended up getting was far from anything he’d ever tasted in Japan; in fact, the originality of Yo! Sushi’s menu really blew him away. Even from the outside, Seiji doubted that they truly sold sushi. Though the name of the restaurant contained the word “sushi”, to Seiji, based on the menu posted in the window outside, it didn’t look like they sold any sushi he knew of.
“Well,” Seiji reasoned as he perused the offerings, “It looks like a place that serves Japanese cuisine, so maybe they decided to add ‘sushi’ to the name to qualify it as a Japanese restaurant?” Regardless, there were plenty of seats available inside, and Seiji was hungry, so he decided to go in.
After being greeted by a hostess and guided to a table, Seiji was excited to see a Japanese-style conveyor belt running through the restaurant, but was surprised to note that all kinds of food were rolling along it; not just sushi. “That’s unusual…” he thought, but he didn’t worry too much about it. He was tired from walking around all day, so he was just happy to sit, but once he had settled in and taken a glance at the menu…
He realized that all of the non-sushi food he saw on the conveyor belt was labeled as sushi!
▼ “Their creativity may have gotten a little bit out of hand…” he thought to himself with eyes bugging out of his head.
The only traditional Japanese-style nigiri sushi he found on the menu was salmon nigiri. Overall, the menu was so unique that Seiji began to wonder, “Why did they think this was sushi?”
Since there weren’t really any other items on the menu, Seiji ordered a few of their “sushi” options. The first to arrive was the “Taco Inari”. It was inari sushi, sweet vinegar rice wrapped in a pouch of fried tofu, but with an extreme twist: the addition of avocado pieces, taco-seasoning, ponzu vinegar, and sriracha mayonnaise. But what surprised Seiji the most about this particular roll was how huge the portion size was!
Next was the “Crunchy California,” a sushi roll with avocado and imitation crab that’s been sprinkled with crunchy, teriyaki-flavored fried onions and topped with mayonnaise. Seiji was mystified to find not seaweed but sesame seeds wrapped around the rice (it seems he didn’t notice that there was seaweed on the inside).
Third on Seiji’s table was the “Tuna Mayo”. This, too, was unlike its Japanese counterpart. Japanese tuna mayo sushi is usually cooked tuna with ample amounts of mayonnaise, rolled in rice and seaweed or plopped on top of rice with a seaweed wall to keep it from spilling over. The Tuna Mayo sushi at Yo! Sushi had tuna and mayonnaise, but also avocado, and no seaweed wrapping; instead, it was sprinkled with small bits of seaweed. There was also very little mayonnaise, which made the tuna dry, and Seiji sad.
After that, Seiji tasted the “Dragon”. It was a roll of imitation crab meat and avocado wrapped in rice, salmon, and sesame seeds, sprinkled with shichimi spices and green onions. Again, the omission of the seaweed wrapping baffled Seiji. He began to wonder, “What do they have against seaweed?”
Next on the list was the “Yo! Roll”. It was a salmon and avocado roll sprinkled with orange masago fish eggs. It’s supposed to be Yo! Sushi’s signature roll, but to Seiji, everything he’d eaten so far felt like special cuisine, so he didn’t see the significance.
Seiji was excited about his next plate, the Prawn Star. Finally, something wrapped in seaweed! …Except the seaweed was deep-fried. So close! This roll was filled with avocado and topped with shrimp, but Seiji couldn’t really tell because everything was covered in a nebulous orange sauce, which was surprisingly sweet.
By the way, there were just six nigiri on the menu: salmon, aburi salmon, grilled eggplant, avocado, roast beef, and fried shrimp. The rest of the menu was entirely made of sushi rolls. The prices ranged from 2.30 pounds (about 299 yen or US$2.83) to 5.50 pounds per plate, which, for Japan, is a little pricey for conveyor belt sushi, though outside of Japan those are decent prices.
In the end, although these dishes were nothing like what one might expect at sushi restaurant in Japan, the flavors of each of Yo! Sushi’s rolls were actually pretty good, aside from the fact that the rice was a little bit gooey. In fact, with a little bit of the ol’ soy sauce, they were quite delicious. It might be better if you think of Yo! Sushi’s offerings not quite as Japanese sushi but as more of a Western experimental cuisine, so as not to feel disappointment by certain aspects, like the distinct lack of seaweed.
▼ He did think the pickled ginger was especially delicious…he ended up eating a lot of it!
It seems that Yo! Sushi is the U.K.’s first rotating sushi restaurant, with plans to open shops worldwide, so you might find one opening up in your city soon! If you do stumble across one, just remember Seiji’s experience, and know that you might not be getting the most authentic Japanese conveyor belt sushi experience.
Though to be honest, we’re not really sure why Seiji was so surprised, because Japan has its fair share of weird sushi rolls, too, like the one topped with pizza, the sushi burritos, and deep-fried sushi. To each his own, we suppose!