Go for the sushi, stay for the eggs.

Continuing our taste test battles between four popular Japanese conveyer belt sushi restaurants–Kappa Sushi, Kura Sushi, Hama Sushi, and Sushiro–we tried out the side dish chawanmushi, savory Japanese egg custard, from each joint to see which one is the best.

▼ Clockwise from the top-left: Kappa Sushi, Kura Sushi, Sushiro, and finally Sushiro.

There’s a rumor among the Japanese food industry that you can’t really mess up chawanmushi, but is that true? We sent our Japanese-language reporter and regular sushi joint customer P.K. Sanjun on a mission to try the chawanmushi at all four restaurants to test this rumor and to find the best egg custard among them. Here’s what he thought of each one.

● Kappa Sushi (220 yen, [US$1.70])

“This was a very orthodox chawanmushi with the savoriness of shiitake mushrooms. It was full of refreshing ingredients like chicken, kamaboko fish cakes, edamame, and shiitake mushrooms. I don’t think anyone would complain about its flavor. It’s a textbook-perfect egg custard.”

● Kura Sushi (199 yen)

“This one only has octopus and imitation crab as fillings, along with a garnish of mitsuba parsley, but the octopus dashi broth base is super delicious. This takes the cake for a chawanushi that you’ll only find at a conveyor sushi place. Next time you go to Kura Sushi, try it!”

● Hama Sushi (286 yen)

“This cod roe chawanmushi definitely stands out, but out of the four, this is the one I liked the least. It’s not bad, but I didn’t think the cod roe paired well with the dashi broth. The roe also overpowered the flavor of the sea lettuce, another main ingredient in the dish.

But looks-wise, this one was pretty appealing, filled with shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, gingko nuts, and kamaboko fish cakes. So, A+ for looks, but average scores on everything else (and it’s the most expensive of the four).”

● Sushiro (220 yen)

“Sushiro’s Ankake Chawanmushi is made with a thick, starchy sauce and filled with chicken, bamboo shoots, shrimp, and scallops. The saltiness of the sauce and dashi broth paired together beautifully. It had a smooth, high-class flavor overall.”

So according to P.K., the rumor has been proven true: it’s nearly impossible to mess up chawanmushi. Even though Hama Sushi missed the mark in his book, it still wasn’t bad.

▼ And the winner is…!

Out of the four places, he’d recommend Kura Sushi’s the most. The octopus broth made it stand out as the kind of egg custard you can only get at a sushi joint, and he thoroughly enjoyed it. In any case, if you’re looking for a side dish at any of these restaurants, go for chawanmushi! You can’t go wrong.

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