All of Denver’s food community is looking forward to the opening of Jeff Osaka’s Sushi Rama this year. One of the many reasons for the excitement is so that they can experience kaiten sushi: sushi on a conveyer belt.
If you’ve never eaten at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant before, you definitely should head to Sushi Rama once it opens. This form of fast-food sushi is popular in Japan and many urban areas in America. After the sushi chefs prepare the product, it is plated and set on a conveyor belt that travels past the customers sitting at the counter and tables. They can then snatch up what they want as the plates pass by, making for a fast and easy meal.
Kaiten-zushi, literally “rotation sushi” was invented by restaurant owner Yoshiaki Shiraishi. He had a hard time keeping his restaurant staffed and couldn’t manage the operations on his own. He wanted to serve more customers quickly and efficiently while still keeping costs down. Shiraishi was inspired to create the machine after watching beer bottles travel along a conveyor belt in an Ashai brewery.
After five years of design and development he opened the first conveyor belt sushi restaurant, called Mawaru Genroku Sushi, in Osaka in 1958 and it was an instant hit. The method of delivery allowed him to quickly serve customers without adding staff. While he initially just used chairs around a central bar where the conveyor belt traveled, he soon added tables which increased his seating and allowed for groups.
Getting the timing of the conveyor belt proved to be a challenge for Shiraishi. Too fast and the sushi could dry out or there could be accidents, too slow and customers complained about the wait. He settled on eight centimeters per second.
Conveyor belt sushi experienced a big boom in popularity in the 1970’s after Shiraishi opened one of his Genroku Sushi restaurants at the Osaka World Expo. This brought his unique invention to a huge international audience. People loved being able to eat quickly and affordably and at one point he had 240 conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Japan.
The idea was slower to spread outside of Japan but today you can enjoy freshly made sushi and other menu items like drinks, desserts, soup and appetizers. Many restaurants in Japan also feature touch screens at each table that allow customers to place special orders and play games for prizes. Billing is conveniently handled with color coded plates that are tallied when the customers are finished.
Here at Seattle Fish Co. we love our seafood, therefore we drool over the seafood joints in town! This month we are thrilled there is a new kid on the block: The Chowder Room. “Kid” isn’t the correct word because owner-chef Matt Stein may be new to the Denver scene, but nowhere close to new in the seafood scene. Matt has been in the seafood industry for over 20 years working on both coasts in a variety of roles. He was a chef within a Californian seafood restaurant chain before he opened and operated a seafood distribution company underneath that restaurant umbrella. The operation sourced, processed, portioned and packaged their own seafood using recyclable and reusable containers. Matt and his wife, Carrie decided to come back to the great state of Colorado and open their own seafood-focused restaurant. After quite some time of searching, they found the perfect space on South Broadway to house their fish house. Matt designed and decorated the nautical-themed restaurant and bar that serves seafood in a variety of ways taking inspiration from both coasts. They serve oysters on the half shell, peel-and-eat shrimp, poke, fish sandwich, crab cakes, fish of the day and chowder (three ways!).
When asked what has changed over the years in the seafood industry, Matt answered, “vendors and distributors are much more solution-focused than they used to be.” He continued to describe how vedors are now willing to fix even the small issues within the supply chain. Those same issues were often overlooked or ignored years ago. Since Matt’s experience is vast and he’s lived on both coasts, we were curious what he would list as his favorite seafood. He had troubles nailing it down, but picked an item from each coast: The east coast Black Sea Bass and The King Crab from the west coast. Matt described the gigantic size of King Crab they brought onboard on recent fishing excursion in Norton Sound, Alaska. The story alone made our mouths water. Thank goodness we were in a seafood joint; we quickly ordered the ‘chowder du jour’. Next time you’re in their neighborhood, stop-in and meet our new friends at The Chowder Room.