One of my favourite restaurants in town is Uobei, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. It’s cheap and fast (if you time it right and avoid the dinner rush) and absolutely delicious!
Obviously, by being in the middle of the U.S., Kansas City doesn’t have a lot of fresh seafood, and what it does have is fairly expensive. As a kid the most seafood I ever ate was shrimp – and I definitely wasn’t a big fan of sushi!
It was at my first enkai (a Japanese dinner party) that I had sashimi – straight up raw fish. It was flounder and tuna and came with a small bowl of soy sauce and wasabi. While the tuna was all right, I discovered that I love flounder!
Fancy sushi can be very expensive, and when it comes to sushi-eating etiquette, I’m a heathen – so I prefer to go to the cheap conveyor belt restaurants where I can stuff my face with joyous abandon. At some restaurants there is a continually moving sushi belt from which you can just pick off whatever looks good (though be careful not to grab something someone else has specifically ordered!) At Uobei, you order off the screen first, and then the food is brought to you on a train. Paul and I prefer this because we know the food is fresh!
The first thing you do when you sit down is serve yourself some powdered green tea. You can also order drinks off the menu.
Next, you order. There’s a giant menu behind the train tracks as well as on the ordering screen. The food shows up in minutes on a train!
There are the sushi rolls we’re all familiar with (though no California rolls at our Uobei, haha), but I love nigiri, which is simple fish on rice. There are fish like tuna, salmon, cod, mackerel, red snapper, shellfish like oysters and mussels, and even just cucumber sushi and eggplant nigiri. There are also noodle, eel, duck, and fried food options as well (I usually get a tiny basket of fries). I’ve not yet been brave enough to try sea urchin or fish prostate…nor do I ever intend to.
My favourite nigiri is salmon! This time around I also decided to try out a pepper mayonnaise mystery-fish (boy do the Japanese love mayonnaise!) and some “spicy” shrimp and leek (I say “spicy” because Japanese food is rarely ever spicy). Paul always orders some kind of shrimp or cucumber sushi.
At each table is a big ol’ container of pickled ginger. I never thought I would love anything so much!
Here’s where I become a heathen sushi-eater: I place a dab of wasabi on top of my sushi, cover it with ginger, and douse it in soy sauce (low sodium, so I can pretend I’m being healthy). Since I have a record of sushi falling apart between my chopsticks, I stick the whole thing in my mouth and chew from there.
Traditionally, soy sauce is to be placed in a small shallow bowl with a little wasabi mixed in. With your chopsticks, you’re supposed to pick up the sushi and dip it in fish-side down before eating.
Just the simple nigiri is amazingly cheap – only about ¥108 ($1) per plate – so this meal, for both Paul and me, was only ¥1,000 ($10)!
A lot of family restaurants have these awesome toy dispensers called gachapons, where you can get toys, keychains, etc. I’m especially partial to sushi cats, so I’ve got a small collection growing. This time around we went with our friend Katie, who was very excited to see Sailor Moon in there.
So there you have it! If you ever come to Japan and need a quick, cheap, delicious meal, be sure to find a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.