Sushi and sashimi have been ubiquitous components of Japanese cuisine for the longest time now. Nuances of tradition, culinary skill, and fresh ingredients usually come up when one mentions these words. Tsukiji is considered the mecca of sushi and sashimi in the latter’s country of origin, with freshly caught fish from the sea auctioned off at the eponymous market. A few restaurants near the area snap up some of the day’s catch to turn it into sushi rolls and sashimi slices for patrons. (Do note that the fish trading operations have now been transferred to the new and modern-looking Toyosu Market since 2018.)
Modernity has also infused itself in the sushi eating culture. Conveyor belt systems for sushi restaurants first gained traction in the 1970s, and have been adopted by a good number ever since. Newer ones use a conveyor belt system so diners get their favorite sushi or sashimi platter directly. Color-coded plates or RFID codes are used to keep track of customer orders, which then determine the total amount one should pay for their meal. The only times waitstaff will approach diners is when the latter are ushered to their seats and when the final bill is given. This keeps FOH (front-of-house) staff to a minimum, enabling restaurants to get more people in the kitchen to work on orders.
One such kaiten (conveyor belt) sushi joint is Genki Sushi from Japan. The franchise entered the Philippines in 2015, and has now established a few branches in the metro. I’ve had the chance to try out Genki Sushi multiple times this year at its Ayala Malls The 30th and SM North EDSA branches. Since then, it has been a go-to place for me whenever I crave sushi and sashimi but I need to be nearby. See, most Japanese restaurants don’t capture the taste of Japan. A few that capture Japan on a plate, however, are far from me. (There’s one I know of – but it’s pretty much out of the way at Sta. Mesa in Manila.)
Ordering is a breeze: simply choose up to four dishes available on the touch screen, and then press the Go button. Whatever dish you choose – be it sushi platters, appetizers, rice bowls, dessert, or drinks – it’s counted as one entry in the order queue. If you change your mind, you can press the picture of the dish on the train and choose a new one. Do note, however, that once the Go button is pressed – the orders are sent to the kitchen for preparation. No new dishes can be added, and orders in the queue cannot be cancelled anymore. Sushi platters here range from around P100 to P200, but can easily fill someone up. Orders arrive through a train that carries the respective dishes; get your plate and press the yellow button to return the train to the kitchen.
There are certain table-side amenities for diners just like in kaiten sushi restaurants abroad. Clean sets of chopsticks are already prepared and neatly placed in a drawer-like container. Pickled ginger and soy sauce are at the ready; oddly, you still have to request for wasabi. There’s also a faucet for potable hot water and a container with matcha powder inside for making tea. I find the latter the best amenity in Genki Sushi for two reasons: you don’t need to spend on drinks, and hot tea definitely helps in digestion.
Sushi and sashimi platters aren’t the only available items in Genki Sushi‘s menu. The restaurant also serves donburi (rice bowls), izakaya fare, and desserts. I tried three donburi options during my visit: unagi (broiled eel), salmon and salmon roe, and chirashi (raw sashimi on rice.) Interestingly, Japanese short-grain rice is used in these rice bowls to add authenticity. If I had the chance, I’d definitely return for the donburi. Some of the desserts are also noteworthy.
(Southerners can enjoy Genki Sushi at its branches in Bonifacio Stopover, SM Aura Premier, and the newly-opened Ayala Malls Manila Bay. Northern folk can visit Genki Sushi’s outlets at UP Town Center, SM North EDSA, Ayala Malls The 30th, and SM Megamall.)
Until the next post, bon appetit and happy holidays!