”Salad” at a sushi restaurant doesn’t always mean a bowl of mixed greens.

Nine times out of ten, if you walk into a restaurant in Japan and ask for “salad,” you’ll get a bowl of mixed vegetables, just like you would in an English-speaking country. If you happen to be in a sushi restaurant, though, “salad” has a second meaning.

Salad sushi, or “sarada gunkan” if you’re going full-Japanese language when ordering, is a mixed seafood sushi with mayonnaise. The “salad” part of the name comes from the resemblance to potato salad, and the “gunkan” part refers to the short, stout, battleship-shaped sushi pieces.

The exact seafood used varies from restaurant to restaurant, though imitation crab is almost always part of the package. Those variations are what convinced our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun that he needed to make salad sushi the next focus of his continuing comparative conveyor belt sushi, or kaitenzushi, taste test battle, so he made the rounds to Japan’s four most popular chains, hitting them all up within three hours of each other on the same day. Each chain charges 110 yen (US$0.90) for two pieces of salad sushi, making this strictly a showdown of flavor.

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

Let’s take a look at P.K.’s notes.

● Kappa Sushi Salad Gunkan

“I’ll just come right out and say it: This is a simple, straightforward salad sushi made with imitation crab and squid, but it’s amazingly good! I didn’t fully notice it until after eating all four restaurants’, but Kappa’s mayonaise has a creamy but mild flavor with no distracting harshness to it. It’s got a great smooth texture too. It may not do anything flashy, but if what you’re looking for is comprehensive deliciousness, this is the best of the bunch.”

● Kura Sushi Seafood Salad

“In addition to immitation crab and squid, Kura Sushi also puts tobikko (flying fish roe) in their salad sushi, which gives it a little extra character, and it’s delicious. Still, compared to Kappa Sushi, Kura Sushi’s mayo is a little harsh, so it’s just an excellent salad sushi, not a super-excellent one like Kappa’s.”

● Hama Sushi Seafood Salad

“What makes Hama Sushi’s salad sushi unique is that it also has hokki (surf clam) in it. It adds some crunchy texture and tastes great too, but while this is really good overall, just like with Kura Sushi the mayonnaise could be smoother-tasting.”

● Sushiro Sea Salad

“Right away, Sushiro surprises you with just how much seafood they stack on their salad sushi. You get an especially large amount of squid, and the mayonnaise has a mild, unobtrusive flavor. This is almost as good as Kappa Sushi’s, but not quite at that same level.”

With Sushiro so often taking or tying for the top spot in P.K.’s rankings, it’s always a surprise to see him award an unshared victory to another restaurant, but this time around, for him, Kappa Sushi can’t be beat.

Photos © SoraNews24
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