Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sushi Bar Makoto: A Sushi Train Restaurant

Sushi Bar Makoto is so frenetically busy and popular, the dishes of sushi are double-stacked on conveyor belts; you can sit upon a stool and watch the selections whiz past, the little signs next to the plates indicating the names of exotic sea gems: Bar Cod, Trevally, Sea Urchin from Tasmania. But there are familiar names as welllobster salad gunkan-style sushi with flying fish eggs, seared salmon sushi topped with salmon eggs marinated in soy sauce (hence the brownish hue to the roe), shrimp tempura sushi with red onion and Japanese-style tartar sauce. There are even cups bursting with fruit, the oversize lids on them askew and nearly toppling as the offerings round the corners of the belt path.

I fancied one particularly colorful two-piece roll which consisted of pumpkin tempura with red and yellow radish, with flakes of furikake dusting the tops. Presumably due to having made many a revolution around the bar, the pumpkin tempura inside was soggy and cold, but still serviceable (the tangy crunch of the pickled radishes inside did help the taste).

For such a trendy joint filled with young people, the atmosphere is unexpectedly dull; most patrons sit dour-faced and quiet as they pick at their food. And not surprisingly, there are communication difficulties with the staff, who stare at you wide-eyed with childlike puzzlement when you ask the simplest questions. A waiter came by and asked if I wanted a "wet-tish." It took me a dazed and confused number of minutes before I figured out he was offering "wet tissues"what we would call "wet-naps" in the States. But for the most part this is a help-yourself eatery; specials can be ordered from the chefs behind the bar, who quickly cater to your whims.

These whims could easily be any one of the three "Chief's Special Handroll" (that's how it's written) selections posted on the wall: Fried Salmon Belly with Mentaiko, Paradise Prawn Cutlet with Sundried Tomato, Tempura Ika with Pineapple. As I expected, the latter was the tastiest in my opinion because of the integration of a tropical fruit (plus you just can't go wrong with fried squid); but I had to try the others as well, and because there's only so much even I can eat in one sitting, I strolled around the street for a spell before returning to Makoto for a second round. By then the restaurant, getting ready to close for the afternoon, was practically giving away whatever was left on the conveyor belt: everything after 3 p.m. is only A$3 a plate, but you can only take it to go. As the color-coded price guide at the bar shows, most plates normally range from A$2.60 to A$6.60. Not bad for a slightly higher-end conveyor-belt sushi restaurant.

Sushi Bar Makoto
119 Liverpool St., Sydney NSW

No comments :