Our reporter discovers the special feature that makes one kind of common fish at this local eatery a slice above even the fatty tuna.

During his recent spontaneous trip to Kagoshima Prefecture, far in the southwest of Japan, our Japanese-language correspondent Seiji Nakazawa found himself on the hunt for food in Kagoshima-Chuo Station, the southern terminus of the Kyushu Shinkansen. He eventually spotted a conveyor belt sushi restaurant that appeared to be local called Mekkemon. A quick internet search actually pulled up a 2013 article from our very own site, where he read that this place had previously won a national conveyor belt sushi contest held by a TV program!

▼ Our article from almost a decade ago (English version in link above)

That connection seemed like enough of a divine signal for him to enter and see how the sushi stacked up almost a decade later. Seiji has high standards for sushi as well–he’s sampled the best of the best of local conveyor belt sushi restaurants in places spanning from Otaru (Hokkaido), Izu, Chiba, and Ishikawa in Japan to a chain all the way in the U.K.

As part of his investigative journalism, he always makes sure to sample sushi made from a wide variety of fish and in a wide variety of styles, so he looked across the whole menu to make his selection.

The following is a gallery of the six plates that Seiji sampled in order of increasing price.

On the lower end, there are these three:

▼ All-natural greater amberjack (275 yen/US$1.96)

▼ Crimson jobfish (275 yen)

▼ Homestyle cured mackerel (275 yen)

In the middle range, these two:

▼ Grilled cured mackerel with sudachi (a kind of citrus fruit) and salt (330 yen)

▼ Minced tuna with spring onions “Sakurajima” (330 yen)

And on the higher end, this single piece:

▼ Pacific bluefin tuna chutoro (fatty tuna belly) (440 yen/one piece)

So which sushi impressed Seiji the most? Many might guess the fatty tuna belly, but it was actually the homestyle cured mackerel for only 275 yen per plate that took home the crown.

While the fatty tuna, a favorite of sushi enthusiasts around the world, was indeed mouthwateringly delicious, there was something about the simply prepared cured mackerel that was truly outstanding. Its umami flavor coupled with the slight sweetness of fatty bits rivaled, and in fact toppled, the fatty tuna in Seiji’s opinion.

Still, there was something else helping bring the mackerel to a level clearly different from the rest. Seiji was wracking his brain trying to figure it out when he looked up and it dawned on him.

It was the soy sauce!

At the counter, there was a tray with two bottles of soy sauce–on the right, a slightly sweeter version that’s preferred in Kagoshima, and on the left, Mekkemon’s own original dashi soy sauce that’s designed to perfectly complement the sushi that they serve.

▼ A card explaining the differences between the two bottles

The taste of Mekkemon’s original blend is at first similar to the sweeter soy sauce, but its light aftertaste features a citrus note that slowly spreads throughout your mouth. That sweet note, combined with the sweetness of the fish itself and the vinegared sushi rice, makes for the most harmonious mouthful of mackerel that Seiji had ever tasted in his life.

It was truly Seiji’s first time trying a soy sauce that merged so beautifully with the sushi to perfect the overall taste. Of course, he also gives credit to the chefs for so masterfully drawing out the natural flavors of the raw ingredients–certainly not an easy feat in and of itself.

From the least expensive to the most expensive plates that he tried, Seiji feels that Mekkemon’s sushi is a step more “gourmet” than other common nationwide sushi chains such as Kura Sushi or Sushiro. The sushi there boasts a taste that you can’t experience anywhere else in the country. In addition to the Kagoshima-Chuo Station branch, there are five other locations of Mekkemon in Kagoshima as well as Kumamoto. Keep Mekkemon in mind the next time you feel compelled to visit Yakushima for a special treat at the start or end of your travels.

Restaurant information
Mawaru Sushi Mekkemon Kagoshima-Chuo Station / 廻る寿司 めっけもん 鹿児島中央駅店
Address: Kagoshima-ken, Kagoshima-shi, Chuo-cho 1-1
Open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m.

Reference: Mekkemon
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