Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sushi Sold by the Piece at "Hikari Sushi Takeaways" in Queenstown, New Zealand

In Queenstown, sushi seems to be served in one of two ways—“takeaway” style, or semi-fine dining style. The town simply isn’t big enough or formal enough to have the caliber of establishments that a city like Auckland would introduce. (In my short time in Auckland, I had glimpsed casual shops with signs that heralded sushi for as low as NZ $.69 per piece, but I chose to pursue the upscale sushi for upscale sushi’s sake, leaving the casual places for the smaller towns to demonstrate.)

The hours in this town, too, are strange, especially for sushi haunts—some only open for dinner, some close in the afternoon—although I did find one casual place in the open-air Queenstown Mall that always seemed to be open during the day.

Enter the ever-casual “Hikari Sushi Takeaways,” a tiny sushi place strangely stuck between a Louis Vuitton store and a Bendon Lingerie shop. Upstairs, it’s an H.M.S. Britannia Restaurant & Bar, with an interior designed to make you feel like you’re aboard an old English galley ship. Outside the sushi shop, a sandwich board sign reads “D.I.Y. Sushi Box: Choose Your Sushi Selection and Take a Free Miso Soup.”

The clean tongs hang on the wall by the entrance; the used ones get tucked in a little bucket on the counter by the cash register. Choose from a variety of sushi…“Crumbed Prawn” nigiri or Crispy Katsu Chicken maki for NZ $1.80 a piece. There’s Inari for NZ $1.60, or Inari with Seaweed Salad tucked inside it for NZ $1.90. Signs promote the availability of brown rice and gluten-free soy sauce…just ask. In the background, K-Pop music plays.

Because of the cramped space, this place seats only four along a bar opposite the side with the sushi cases; the large kettle of free miso soup sits on one end of the bar near the exit, as if to say Help Yourself to some soup…on your way out.

On the door, the sign states their hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, but the sushi chef says it really depends on the number of customers as to how late they close. (This is a notable feature of most businesses in New Zealand that I’ve come across so far; some places even post signs that they are open “till late”—closing time really “all depends.”)

At 4 p.m. on a Tuesday, while all the other semi-fine dining Japanese restaurants are still closed, Hikari Sushi Takeaways has full trays of stock. Of course, this is a resort town with all kinds of food available midday—from Turkish kebabs to Chinese dumplings and Bambi Burgers made of Fiordland Deer, allowing tourists’ taste buds to be about as fickle as the weather here in Queenstown. But if you’re craving sushi around this time of day, Hikari Sushi Takeaways is there for you.

Hikari Sushi Takeaways
Queenstown Mall
22 Ballarat Street, Queenstown, New Zealand

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