Published on February 15, 2008
The sound of a typical keiten sushi ("conveyer belt sushi"), is welcome and familiar at the new Heiroku Sushi restaurant, which is set up to look just like a restaurant in Sendai province, northern Japan. This Japanesestyle conveyorbelt sushi place arrived to Bangkok less than three months ago, but has been an instant favourite for diners looking for a fun way to savour raw fish.
"Heiroku Sushi is actually not a new name for keiten sushi restaurants in Japan," says Nutcha Likhitkitwoerakul, Thai partner of Global Factory (Thailand) Co, the operator of the first Heiroku Sushi's Bangkok branch. "We have been around in Japan for almost 40 years, with more than 300 branches throughout Japan. This is our first international branch and we hope to open more in the capital very soon."
A keiten sushi is an affordable way to enjoy this delicacy. The semiself service restaurant typically offers counter and table seating with customers picking up sushi of their choices until they are full. The sushi choices are priced differently by codes of coloured plates clearly posted at the table for guidance.
Heiroku Sushi offerings range from Bt29 (for two simple bites of sushi such as crab stick, cucumber and shrimp roe) to Bt199. The Bt59plate is most popular with items like salmon toro (the fish's fatty belly), makuro (tuna) and steamed egg. The most expensive items are Bt199 for one bite of otoro (tuna belly). Fresh sashimi, crispy fried shrimps, sweet omelette, soups are available for Bt59 to Bt99. Green tea, hot or cold, is free.
"Sendai is a Northern province and people there get the freshest sushi in Japan thanks to the cold weather and the province's long coastline," says Nutcha. "We import fresh ingredients from Japan, along with the conveyor belt and the ricemoulding machine to make every bite up to the standard. Our kitchen is designed to be the same as what you find in a sushi kitchen in Japan. We also shout out, in the Japanese language, to attract customers like a real keiten does in the streets of Japan."
Fresh and chilled fish is sent by airfreight from Japan three times a week and an array of sushi is freshly made in the kitchen and at the counter at the amount depending on the crowd. If you do not find your favourite bites on the conveyor, you can also look at the menu and order fresh new bites.
Countertop seats are good for a good meal alone or with a few friends. But tables are also available.
While Nutcha says that an average price for a person here is Bt250, we found that if you prefer an array of fish and fresh seafood for your sushi, you might end up paying about Bt500 per person. Among the best bites were the salmon toro and the aromatic grilled salmon with creamy onion. Their smooth, piping hot steamed egg is also a favourite. Grilled tuna, unagiru rice rolls (Bt79) and their arrays of sashimi rice (Bt99) served in a small bowl are good.
"'Heiroku' means 'everyone is happy together,'" explains Nutcha, who studied engineering in Japan. "And we hope to bring the fun atmosphere of real keiten sushi to brighten up the scene of Japanese restaurants in town. At least, our noisy atmosphere might attract those who want to try things differently."
A709/1709/3, seventh floor, CentralWorld
Daily, 11am to 10pm
(02) 613 1200
Sirin P Wongpanit
For more food reviews, go to www.ohsirin.blogspot.com