Saturday, May 3, 2008

Conveyor Belt Sushi

People are going to start thinking that all I do is eat here, but my last dining experience in Bangkok was probably also the most fun. It actually wasn't even Thai food. Ever since I was 16, I've always wanted to eat at a Japanese conveyor belt restaurant, which I first saw on the BBC. Basically, it's a budget buffet style place, with one big catch: you get your food off a conveyor belt that circulates past every seat in the restaurant. The chef continually makes items, and then places them on the belt, for customers to pick up as they please. As for payment, items are grouped into categories, and each price category has a plate color corresponding to it. At the end of the meal, the hostess tallies up your plates, by color and count, and bills you accordingly.

I found such a place 2 hours before I left, and checked in for a delightful lunch. As soon as I sat down, I realized I had no idea what I was doing. For one, there was practically no sushi on the belt; it was mostly slices of raw meat and fish. Puzzled, I was about top pick up a plate and start eating it uncooked when I spotted my neighbors doing differently; they both had bowls of steaming soup placed on burners in front of them. I thought this was an option, but it was actually the main course. The burners heated the soup to a boil, and you cooked your own food. I overcooked my first slice of meat, but after I got the hang of it, I had a blast, fancying myself a little chef, throwing together clams, beef, bizarre looking mushrooms and some leafy greens.

Later, I moved onto sushi. Actually, I had to wait to move on to sushi. The thing I was to realize was that at a conveyor restaurant, you're at the mercy of the tastes of everyone to your right. In this case, the Japanese guy to my immediate right had a hankering for sushi. For the first twenty minutes, every time a sushi plate emerged hopefully from the little conveyor belt opening, I waited optimistically for it to come my way, but to no avail. The man to my left snagged every piece until he had finally gorged himself, and then I had my turn. Moral of the story: the best seat in a conveyor belt restaurant is the one at the start.

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