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Faux pas to avoid when eating sushi

JAPAN | Tuesday, 18 August 2009 | Views [960]

If you would like to have an entertaining meal in Japan, I would suggest stopping in at a sushi family restaurant. It is a friendly place where all the staff yells out hello and goodbye every time a patron either enters or leaves the establishment. There are business men sitting at the counter and kids peeking over the back of their family’s booths. Once you are escorted to your table, it is easy to choose what you would like to eat. A conveyor belt loaded with sushi snakes through the restaurant and passes by every table. All you have to do wait for something that looks good (or recognisable) and pick it off the conveyor belt. Sometimes there is a “before” picture that proceeds the “after” concoction to give you a hint of what you could choose to eat. 

 

Since we were sitting in a booth, we really could not anticipate what would be coming up next so we had to be vigilant for whatever would appear. We had about a ten second window between when a plate of sushi would appear, our decision if we wanted it or not, and grabbing it off the belt. It made me feel like I was in a Japanese version of an “I love Lucy” episode.

 

Since we had wandered into our first sushi restaurant by ourselves, we had no one to guide in what we were doing. After grabbing our fifth plate off the belt, we started to wonder how they would ever figure out what we had eaten. We did a little deductive reasoning and noticed that not all the plates had the same pattern. We then found a laminated chart displaying all the different plate patterns with prices in Yen next to them. So you pay by the plate and some plates are more expensive than others. Hmmm, practical and logical.

 

One thing that stumped us was every once in a while a plate would go by on a raised plastic stand. Was this a featured item? More expensive? The house special? We decided to spurge on the featured item/expensive/house special and grabbed the next one that came past. It was like small fried cheese egg roll things and were quite good. As SB was not as enthusiastic as we were with eating raw fish, we let him eat a majority of them. We then decided to make a point of trying almost all the featured item/expensive/house special that went by. The funny thing was they were all the same item. You would think that they would at least have more than two or three special items per day. We were surprised when we saw a waitress come to the table behind us and hand deliver a featured item/expensive/house special to them. Maybe they were a difficult family. They sure were not a happy bunch, seeing how they were scowling at us as they left.

 

Oh well. We didn’t let the Sensei Grumpys ruin our meal. The kitchen seemed to have run out of the featured item/expensive/house special by this time as we never saw another one go by. When it was time for us to leave, we waved down a waitress and she came over and added up our bill that consisted of a pile of dirty plates.

 

As we left, the staff called out, to what seemed to us, to be an unenthusiastic “arigatou gozaimasu” as we left the restaurant. It was late and they must have been tired. Poor things. It must be hard serving all the hard-to-please customers that they must get every night.

 

The next time we went to a sushi restaurant we went with JN’s high school friend, L, and his Japanese wife, Y. What a different experience! That is when we discovered that there was an interphone at each table with which you can communicate with your waitress. Y wanted to order miso soup for her husband. And just guess how it was delivered! Via the conveyor belt on a raised plastic stand! “Oh yes,” explained Y, “the specially ordered items are always delivered like this.” We burst out laughing when we realized that the other night we kept snatching the other family’s food off the conveyor belt right before their eyes. No wonder they were all scowling at us!                                    

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