Friday, September 10, 2010
Kaiten at the Mall
There aren't too many decent culinary selections at your typical suburban mall. I could get a greasy slice of pizza or a hot dog on a stick. Or, as I live near an upscale "destination village-style" mall, I could also pay for overpriced, badly cooked, faux-Chinese fare, flanked by a bunch of stone soldier that the corporate offices purchase by the boatload.
Fortunately, our mall also has a Blue C Sushi, a local chain (Yes, I said chain!) that offers sushi kaiten-style, on a rotating belt. You just grab the dishes that you want when they reach you and, at the end of your meal, they tally the number of dishes and colors (each color indicates a certain price) to determine the damage. Servers will bring you special items such as miso soup, beverages and anything that's on the menu but not available on the belt. I'm sure it's not "authentic," but the chefs yell out greetings and the food is tasty, quick and reasonably priced. And personally, I find that a lot more appetizing than that hot dog on a stick.
Today I ordered miso soup (note the big western-style bowl with a SPOON), pretty standard stuff, a little salty but very warm and comforting on a rainy Northwest day. To its left is a shrimp tempura roll, very nicely done with the shrimp still retaining its light and crispy tempura coating and the rice cooked and cooled to a really good texture, one that has enough stickiness and tenderness but also has a bite to it.
One of my favorites, the eel nigiri. A great thing about kaiten is that you can eyeball the food before you decide whether to select it. Is the eel size to your liking? Is it grilled to the proper brown hue while still retaining a slight sheen of moisture? Then, yes, I shall select you today, for here at the kaiten, I make the decisions, damnit!
Behind the eel is spinach gomai, two compact towers of cooled blanched spinach sitting in a nice shoyu and sesame glaze. I like to break up the spinach towers with my chopsticks and just dredge it all in that delicious, slightly thick sauce.
I tried a new dish today, the flying fish roe gunkan, which was comprised of a big serving of roe on top of rice. You can't tell from this photo, but the roe was bright bloody red; it was so beautiful I decided to call it dessert. While I loved the contrast of textures (the crunch of fish eggs with the chewy stickiness of the rice), the roe didn't have the clean briny flavor I've become accustomed to with roe. It was a kind of muddy briny flavor and tasted like a combination of salt water (good) and dirt (bad). I'm still glad I tried it, though.
Do you ever eat at the mall? If so, what do you like? Be honest!