We go round Japan’s top kaitenzushi chains to find the best place to go for salmon roe.

After sampling all the steamed buns at Japan’s most popular convenience stores, our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun is on a new culinary mission: to sample the sushi at Japan’s most popular conveyor belt sushi restaurants.

The big four conveyor belt sushi restaurants, or “kaitenzushi” restaurants as they’re known in Japan, are: Kappa Sushi (a.k.a “Kappa Zushi”), Kura Sushi (a.k.a “Kurazushi”), Sushiro, and Hama Sushi (a.k.a “Hamazushi”).

▼ Clockwise from top left: Kappa Sushi, Kura Sushi, Sushiro, and Hama Sushi

After trying out the chains’ maguro tuna offerings last week, P.K. was now keen to compare another popular sushi dish: ikura (salmon roe).

▼ Clockwise from top left: Kappa Sushi, Kura Sushi, Sushiro, and Hama Sushi

To give us the most accurate evaluation, P.K. visited all four restaurants on the same day, so let’s find out which ones floated his boat…and which ones didn’t.

● Kappa Sushi (165 yen [$US1.43])

First up to the tasting plate is Kappa Sushi’s offering, which contained a good serving of ikura, along with a slice of cucumber in each morsel. While it looked nice on the plate, it didn’t really stand out on the palate, with the cucumbers detracting from the overall flavour rather than enhancing it, making for a mellow flavour and so-so finish.

● Kura Sushi (110 yen)

Next up was the ikura from Kura Sushi, which needs to be applauded for its price point, coming in at 55 yen cheaper than all the others in this taste test. Understandably, it was a little smaller than the others, but what you get for the price is actually really good – a fresh cucumber slice in each, and some lovely, glistening balls of roe. The taste wasn’t anything to shout about from the rooftops, but it was a good, solid offering.

● Hama Sushi (165 yen)

Hama Sushi’s ikura surprised P.K. with its solo-serve offering. However, when he tasted it, he understood why the single morsel didn’t need a partner on the plate, as it packed in the same level of taste satisfaction in one piece as the two-piece varieties did at the other chains.

The salmon roe here was incredibly delicious, and P.K. likened the difference between this one and the others to the difference between professional baseball and high school baseball.

● Sushiro (165 yen)

The final stop of the day was at Sushiro, where P.K. was again greeted by a glistening cucumber-and-ikura duo. This one looked a little rougher than the others, though, with the cucumber sliced rather haphazardly. This tipped the balance of flavours off the mark, as the cucumber ended up overwhelming the more subtle taste of ikura.

So, at the end of his kaitenzushi tour, P.K. gave the top accolade to Hama Sushi for its superb, pro-baseball quality ikura offering. They smashed it out of the park with their single sushi, showing a confidence and expertise way above its field of competitors, and it left P.K. wondering if all ikura sushi might be better off without its popular cucumber companion.

▼ P.K. did also want to give an honorary mention to Kura Sushi’s ikura, as its 110-yen offering was great value for money.

These four chains certainly put up a good fight, and on an empty stomach P.K. wouldn’t refuse any of them. However, when he’s got a hankering for ikura, he’ll be heading back to Hama Sushi in a heartbeat.

As for their sushi crepes in Harajuku…well, that’s another story.

Photos © SoraNews24
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