Setting aside the raw squid incident, my sushi experiences here have been pretty good! I am definitely on my own when it comes to sushi, so I save it for when Rob is at work. “Kaintenzushi,” aka “conveyer belt sushi,” aka “sushi go round,” is kinda where it’s at these days in Japan. Before this week, the sushi I’ve eaten since arriving in Japan came from the grocery store but I really wanted to have a real sushi experience before we leave so I went this week… twice. I wanted to try more than what I was able to eat in one trip so I had to make another one.
You can find conveyer belt sushi places in America, too, but I’ve experienced them. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going in & wasn’t excited at the thought of not being able to ask questions if they didn’t speak English, but I went in anyway and it all worked out. I did some research before going, to find the best possible sushi place in Yokosuka, and found Sakanayasan no Shinsen, which is the highest rated sushi restaurant in the city. They cost a little more than some of the other places I’ve seen but I was fine with that! I read an article that said sometimes you get what you pay for with sushi & I wanted to do this right. In one review, I read that the name of the restaurant translates into “fish mongers fresh fish.” Supposedly, the fish in this restaurant is really good. That’s not to say that none of it has been frozen. Sometimes, you WANT your sushi frozen in advance to help kill off the parasites (or so I’ve ready with salmon sushi).
Upon arrival, you are provided with a complimentary cup of green tea. If you want something specific in the moment, you can order off their menu, and they do provide an English menu, & you can just ask the person preparing the sushi. Otherwise, as the sushi passes by, you just grab it right off the conveyer belt. As I watched people, it seems like everyone was content to just grab it as it goes by, myself included, and just wait for their preferences to appear. Each plate has two or three pieces of fish, served with rice, so it can be filling. During my first trip, I stuck with the cheaper options and ate quite a bit but during my second trip, I ate a little less but I went for the more expensive options. In the end, I probably spent around $40-$45USD for the two trips so it’s not terrible. The cheapest sushi starts at 108 Yen, and the most expensive item on the menu is 658 Yen. Customers keep their emptied sushi plates in a stack next to them and after they’re done with the meal, a member of the staff will come count you plates, which are color coded based on price. You can also order some simple soups and just have some sushi as an accompaniment but most people just seem to eat the sushi, or you can just eat a couple of pieces as a cheap snack. They have to go options at the front of the restaurant as well. I’ve tried them a couple times & they’re good but they’re obviously already prepared, and I prefer to be able to select my own fish, so I’m a fan of sitting down to eat at the sushi counter.
Fun fact: sushi is supposed to be served at room temperature. Sushi sitting over ice is seen as a sign that the fish is not fresh. Who knew??
Another fun fact: the word “sushi” actually refers to the rice. I guess that’s why you can refer to a California roll as sushi even though there’s no raw fish with it. Raw fish is actually sashimi, which can also be an accompaniment to sushi rice.
As far as I’m concerned, tuna is where it’s at when it comes to sushi and I think a lot of people agree with me on that because they offer quite a few tuna options. It’s my favorite, by far.
I’ve read that each piece of sushi is supposed to be consumed in a single bite, so the rice doesn’t fall apart, but some of those pieces are so big! I watched the locals around me eat it, and sure enough, they ate the entire piece at once. I kinda got the hang of it but there were a couple things I had to eat in two bites and sometimes eating it in a single bite filled my entire mouth! It’s acceptable to eat it with a chopsticks or your fingers (so I’ve read), and thank goodness. I’ve actually been fairly successful with my use of chopsticks while eating in Japanese restaurants but I wasn’t doing well with the sushi.
While there for the first time, I went in and sat down and figured out the process. The second trip in was much more fun though. Both times, I made a point to show up just before the sailors and government workers get off work to beat them to a seat and late enough that the staff is being really proactive about getting the fish out there. When I arrived for my second trip, there weren’t many people there so I took a seat at the end of the counter. The Itamae (sushi chef) actually invited me to move and sit next to his work station so I moved, and I’m glad I did because I was able to watch him prepare the sushi & add it to the line. It was pretty cool. He was friendly & tried to communicate with me a little but it was challenging because we REALLY didn’t speak the same language! He said several things to me but other than when he pointed out the soy sauce, and asked me if I wanted water, I had no idea what he was saying. I could tell that he could tell that I am no sushi connoisseur! Anyway, in addition to adding more sushi to the things I’ve now eaten, that guy added a little fun to my experience.
Making sushi is considered an art form and taken very seriously here, & people spend years as an apprentice before becoming the itamae. It can take a full decade to become the master chef & these people spend their lives perfecting their craft.
The pictures below display the menu in case you want to order something specific. They aso list the price and I used my menu as a reference guide to figure out what some of the items on the conveyer belt were!
Alright. Here is it. The raw arrow squid. This was definitely a one time thing!! I try to be open minded & somewhat adventurous when it comes to food, especially since I’m in another country. I knew this didn’t look appetizing but everyone around here loves squid so much so I pulled it off the conveyer belt & just stared at it for a minute or two. Finally, I just did it & shoved the entire piece in my mouth. I started chewing… & I just kept chewing. I felt like it was never going to end. The texture was everythig you’d expect it to be & I don’t mean that in a good way! It’s like rubber… Eventually, after what was probably only a matter of seconds but felt like forever, I decided I couldn’t chew on it anymore & had to wash it down with my green tea just to get it out of my mouth but even that only did so much. Once I washed it down, I actually had a brief moment of gagging & couldn’t eat anything else for a couple of minutes because the entire incident made me feel physiclly ill. Below, is what this guy looks like before he’s prepared by the sushi chef. I ate that raw. They gave me two on the plate but I didn’t get to the second one.
Before I go any further, let me start by saying that I did not eat whale but I’ve seen it on several menus during my time here, always served raw. It seems like they don’t prepare the whale here unless asked to. I read that whale meat isn’t terribly popular, so I assume they don’t want to waste it. It’s a misconception that whale is a big part of Japanese cuisine, because most Japanese people don’t eat it. It’s a booming business because of tourists. Minke whales are actually one type of whale that are not endangered & I don’t think it’s technically illegal to hunt this particular species. I won’t eat whale though… I’ve watched whaling videos & it’s horrifying & it’s a slow, brutal death. I’m not curious enough to support that. There’s been a lot of controversy around Japan & whaling, & they resumed commercial whaling practices in their own waters in July 2019.
It’s great being able to say I’ve had authentic Japanese sushi. Maybe it’s in my head & I’m just excited about being in Japan, but this today’s sushi really took the cake. Tuna!
I had salmon from a sushi set purchased at the grocery store & it was okay. I had salmon served at this restaurant & it was actually pretty good! I’m not sure what the difference is. Maybe it’s a mental thing!
All raw salmon has to be previously frozen to kill parasites.
Inari sushi is deep fried tofu pockets full of sushi rice. They were okay. I can take ’em or leave ’em.
Big eye tuna – I pretty much enjoyed all the tuna. It ranged from some of the cheapest options to the most expensive.
This tuna is the most expensive item on the menu and it is so good. I think I tried pretty much all the tuna on their menu but I won’t post pictures of each one becausee they don’t look all that different from one another. Sushi can be hit or miss for me, but man, I can eat a ton of this tuna. I’ll probably go to this restaurant again, but next time, it’ll be less about the adventure of new foods and more about enjoying the tuna. Different types of sushi are kind’ve growing on me now.
Early on in this trip, I was surprised to learn that mayonnaise is extremely popular here & lots of sauces are mayonnaise based, including the sauce on this “grilled” salmon. They say it’s grilled but they really used a kitchen torch, which is totally fine. This was pretty good (just a little heavy on the salt).
This is just chopped tuna with scallions – super good. I don’t know much about seaweed but this wasn’t my favorite seaweed. It was drier than what I like.
Engawa refers to muscle in the tail fin of a flat fish. This particular engawa is from a founder. It was pretty good. I’ve had this several times now.
“Grilled” shrimp with mayonnaise.
When I bought the grocery store sushi, it had eel in a sauce & I thought it was pretty good. Today, I had eel that was lightly torched on the top, also in a sauce, but this time, it was significantly larger. There was no eating these things in a single bite. It was a little more challenging today because it actually looked like an eel. It tasted pretty alright but it had a bit of a texture to it, like you would expect from an eel. However, I did a little reading about eels this evening & apparently there are several species that are critically endangered & they are also considered to be a highly unsustainable food. Good to know. No more eel for me!
Yesso scallops – pretty good and not at all like what I was expecing.
This is the best sushi I’ve had so far. Granted, I don’t eat a ton of sushi so I don’t have too many thing to compare it to. Often times, when I eat sushi, its something that doesn’t even have raw fish. When I have had sushi with raw fish, it was nothing like what I’ve had here. Some of the sushi could be fresh, but some is definitely frozen first (like the salmon) but it’s just so good. I read that one of the reasons the sushi here is better is because fattier cuts are used. In the US, apparently we tend to use leaner cuts.
It makes all the difference.