Kula Sushi noobs
I have been to kaiten or revolving sushi bars before, but since this was my first time to Kula, I enlisted the “baby duck” aka Lilee to come along to get the feedback from somebody who is super chill about their food, and she had been here before. That way, I would have a better sense of knowing which way my skeptimistic thoughts (I need to eat something to wash the taste of hatorade out) were leaning towards when I tried out Kula Sushi’s first restaurant which opened up in 2009 in the United States, in Irvine, CA.
Irvine on the outside, Japanese on the inside
Irvine has a way of homogenizing everything, so it was a surprise to see that when you walk in that it looks and sounds like (yea, “sounds like”) you are in Japan. It is as if they cut out the interior out of one of their Japanese stores, and was like you know what “f***k it, let’s just go with what works for Japan, and we’ll just drop our steez into Irvine.” Well, you know what, I am glad they did that, and I applaud them for doing that because it is all too common to see several other major Japanese chains who thought they needed to “Americanize” the experience. This adaptation happens to the point that if I were to mention who they were, you probably would not even have realized that they were from Japan because it feels as Japanese as Scarlett Johansson (her soul is so Motoko Kusanagi). As for Kula, they come off straight out Japanese.
California, Texas, and you know, Georgia
Kula (Kura Corporation) has over 400 locations mainly in Japan, but in the U.S. of A, they have 14 restaurants which are primarily in California. Kula is not a straight out West Coast operation because they have locations in Texas and they are opening up, in you know, Doraville, GA!? Wuh? How did that happen? I think it was that exec. again who had somebody say as a suggestion “how about Georgia?”, and he was like “hey, why not, das coo.”
You have to be the one to initiate contact
Walking in it is not immediately obvious, but there is a sign-in tablet. In Irvine, it’s to the left, so it is not readily apparent because it is not all up in your face. The only way to know what to do is if you see others doing it because the staff was busy hustling about which is why on my visit, two dudes didn’t sign-in till they saw another group come in and sign-in. Once you do manage to get your name on the waiting list, they’ll call you out by name.
So you’re telling me everything is $2.25
Well not everything, but the majority of the items are $2.25 which is why they don’t have pricing on all the items.
All it takes is a tug, and it’s on
Once you sit down, you can start eating immediately. No need to wait for a starting bell, and you can start grabbing plates right off the conveyor/revolving belt (Lilee did just that like a pro). All you have to do is tug on the plate and the “sneeze guard” will pop right on open for you to have at it. Just don’t be that person to try it put it back because you pull, you pay.
What is the screen/tablet above the table for?
If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you can utilize the touch screen directly above the table to order directly from the kitchen. The screen also acts as a display for the “bikkura-pon” game that is described below which involves counting the number of plates you’ve taken and disposed of.
The ball didn’t drop, but one of the guys got us one manually
What is “Bikkura-Pon”
You might get that Vegas vibe here because every five plates you’re supposed to be eligible to win a prize (if you lose, it will feel just like Vegas). This happens when you start dropping those plates into that slot located on your table which almost also has that feel of dropping a quarters in to a slot machine. So if you have gambling addiction or are susceptible when encouraged to eat more, this place is going to be the dominant one in your new relationship.
No preservatives or additives
Like you’re thinking healthy as you bite into a mayo covered sushi roll, but if you are turning that corner on being able to bounce quarters off your abs, Kula has got your back by minimizing all those nasty, bad, bad, icky preservatives and addiditives. Kula claims to offer and serve up menu items using only organic products that have NO MSG, NO Artificial Sweeteners, NO Preservatives, and NO Artificial coloring for customers’ health and safety.
I do like the sushi at Mitsuwa market, so I was hoping Kula would be on par with their nigiri sushi. Unfortunately, I think the nigiri was some of their weakest offerings because the first thing I noticed was that the “neta” (sushi toppings) looked almost paper-thin. It looked as though the fish was planking the rice.
As for the most critical component which is the sushi shari, well, I was too thrown off with the toppings to notice.
- Shime saba (marinated mackerel): People aren’t fans of mackerel, and if you’re not one, you definitely won’t like the shime saba here. If it were properly done, freshly marinated saba would have a smoothness and juiciness to the texture of the meat although the more you marinate it, the firmer and drier it gets, this was definitely the latter.
- The seared flounder fin (engawa): there’s only so much flounder fin to go around, and Kula is doing it wrong. I really do love engawa because of the slightly chewy texture and the fat content when it’s seared for a bit because this is one of the best parts of the flounder, but I barely finished this one.
Who you calling a ho? Or well a yukhoe isn’t spelled out anywhere as to what it is, so unless you’re very familiar with Asian cuisine, you won’t know that it’s a Korean word which means “yuk” (meat) and “hoe” (sashimi/raw fish).
It would be great if Kula were to communicate that better because their idea of a yuckhoe gunkan is any topping served with a raw egg which wasn’t the most appetizing since my egg wasn’t raw (I prefer raw). Instead, it was slightly cooked through, so the texture was too firm for my liking.
Rolls, rolls, rolls and rolls
Oh, I know you don’t like them rolls when it muffin tops over your jeans, but how could you not love 1 of the 24 makizushi (sushi rolls) that they offer. Each drenched in varying tasty sauces although the only downside is that some rolls aren’t available at all locations. Although that probably won’t matter because the four or five rolls I had, were tasty enough for Lilee and me to be content…. well not till I finished off a slice cheesecake, and she finished off two slices (#beastmode).
All the things not to do
A LOT, read the signs.