Originally posted: September 11th, 2017, with my updates: April 11th, 2023
I realized I would do it again because Kura Sushi has revolving (kaiten) sushi down, but I wanted to know how much has changed from 2017 to 2023 before I do.
Living in Southern California for over a decade, I had not been to a kaiten sushi spot since probably my time in the SF Bay Area when we used to hit up Miyake in San Jose back in the day (down the street from De Anza and the Steve Jobs garage).
I also wanted to know how different the Irvine, California Kura Sushi location is from Watertown, Massachusetts, or the 51 other spots throughout California and the 17 other states.Japanese chains like Yoshinoya America have failed miserably outside of SoCal because they are nothing like Yoshinoya, Japan. On the other hand, Kura Sushi is most likely, like Japan (I have only been to Yoshinoya, Japan, so I can’t say for sure).
Kura Revolving Sushi Bar Noob
I have been to kaiten or “revolving sushi bars” before, but since this was my first time to Kula (they now go by “Kura,” wtf), I enlisted the “baby duck” aka Lilee to come along to get the feedback from somebody who is super chill about the food, but she had been here before.
Japanese have a hard time pronouncing “L’s,” yet that has not stopped with them naming their brands Lexus or Kula (the Japanese pronunciation, Kura/くら).Like my homie saying “wrapped up” (it turned out he was saying laptop).
The Kura Sushi we both went to is also the very first of their restaurants 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 (even parking lane colors, they’re green), so it was a surprise to see when you walked 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 will just drop our steez into Irvine.”
Irvine, California is the first Kura Sushi location (opened in 2009) in the United States, and I feel as though they sliced it right out of Japan and dropped it into SoCal, good!Unlike Yoshinoya, who thought they had to Americanize their business to appeal to Americans, so what we got was crappy Yoshinoya America with Chinese (they are trying to call it tempura) orange and habanero chicken and Taiwanese boba.
Well, you know what, I am glad they did, and I applaud them for doing that because it is all too common to see several other Japanese chains who thought they needed to “Americanize” or pander the experience.
The Americanized versions are to the point that these businesses are offering “sushi pizza” because that is what they think Americans want instead of Japanese food. Out of them all, the worst offender is Yoshinoya America doing orange chicken and boba.
The totally Americanized businesses like Yoshinoya America feel as Japanese as Scarlett Johansson (her soul is Motoko Kusanagi tho), but as for Kura, they come off as straight outta Japan.
Locations Back in 2017: California, Texas, and You Know, Georgia
Kula (Kura Corporation) has over 400 locations, primarily in Japan, but in the U.S. of A, they have 14 restaurants in California.
The latest Kura Sushi stats as of 2023: 451 locations in Japan, 22 in Taiwan, and 45 in the United States.In 2017, it was only California, Texas, and Georgia (3 states, but now 18 states in total).
Kura 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 executive again who was open to suggestions, and somebody said as an idea, “How about Georgia?” and he was like, “Hey, why not, das coo, lets do it.”
2023 Kura Revolving Sushi Bar Locations
|California (SoCal)||13||Brea, Cerritos, Cypress, Garden Grove, Glendale, Irvine, KTown, Little Tokyo, Sawtelle Japan Town, Rancho Cucamonga, San Diego, Sherman Oaks, Torrance|
|6||Cupertino, Pleasanton, Sac, San Francisco, San Jose, Roseville|
|District of Columbia||1||Washington DC|
|Florida||4||Aventura, Orlando, and Tampa and Orlando/Waterford Lakes Town Center Coming Soon|
|Georgia||3||Doraville, Buford and Atlanta Coming Soon|
|Illinois||3||Oak Brook, Schaumburg, and Naperville Coming Soon|
|Massachusetts||3||Watertown, Dorchester Coming Soon|
|Missouri||1||Kansas City Coming Soon|
|Neveda||1||Las Vegas (Spring Mountain Rd of course)|
|New Jersey||3||Fort Lee, Jersey City, Edison|
|New York||2||Carle Place and Flushing Coming Soon|
|Ohio||1||Columbus Coming Soon|
|Pennsylvania||2||Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Coming Soon|
|Texas||12||Austin, Carrollton, Frisco, Houston/Midtown, Houston/Westchase, Katy, Platon, San Antonio, Sugarland, and (Euless, Fort Worth, Webster, all coming soon)|
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 like some of Lilee’s dates.
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 will call you out by name.
Back in 2017: “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.
I wanted to know how much Kura Sushi is in 2023 and if they charge the same in each state, which they do not, and they have various rates from state to state.In the last five to six years, the pricing has gone up about $1.00 – $1.30 per plate.
Price Sampling of 5 Locations in the US
|San Francisco, California||$3.85|
All it Takes is a Tug, and It Is On *Wink *Wink
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).
You pull, you pay (no give backs).The set-up here is a system whereas most kaiten spots in the US are basic.
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 do not be that person to try and put it back because you pull, you pay.
What is the Screen/Tablet Above the Table For?
If you do not see what you are 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.
I could not imagine they would keep everything the same as they had for Arizona, Massachusetts, to Minnesota, but I was wrong. Going through the pics of the Watertown location (check out the pics), the interior looks on par with Irvine, CA.WTF, back in 2010, there was a 1.8% Japanese population in Brookline, MA (22 mins or 4.9 miles from Brookline to Watertown). Usually Japanese are located wherever there is a Japanese company, especially automotive.
What is “Bikkura-Pon“
You might get that Vegas vibe here because of the sounds and
every five plates (now every 15 plates) you are supposed to be eligible to win a prize (if you lose, it will feel just like Vegas). The plate count starts happening when you start dropping those plates into that slot located on your table which almost also has that feel of dropping 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.
The little plastic balls with prizes inside are based upon gachapon which is the sound the machine makes when you are winding it up for the capsule toy to come out (obviously, Kura Sushi is dispensed differently).There are rows, upon row, upon rows of these machines in Japan, especially in Akihabara.
Kura Sushi does not slack with their prizes and they often have tie-ins with popular anime such as Demon Slayer, and you can view all of their prizes here.
The prize collection will also be available for individual purchase in-store and online at order.kurasushi.com. Prizes may differ by location and will be available while supplies last.
No Preservatives or Additives
Do not be thinking healthy as you bite into a mayo covered sushi roll, but if you want to turn that corner to finally be able to bounce quarters off your abs, Kura has got your back by minimizing all those nasty, bad, bad, icky preservatives and additives.
Kura Sushi offers and serves up menu items using only organic products that also have NO MSG, NO Artificial Sweeteners, NO Preservatives, and NO Artificial coloring for “customers’ health and safety.”
This might be a shocker for some but Japan’s food culture goes back several thousand years, so soy sauce (Water, Soybeans, Wheat, Salt), miso (Soybeans, Salt, Koji), and a million other foods came about due to preservation (one reason why salt was so valuable).That is the entire ingredients list for soy sauce and miso, but that blue cheese dressing, aside from the blue cheese needs refrigeration and artificial preservatives (a lot).
Kura Sushi Nigiri Sushi (Fish on Top of Rice)
I do like the sushi at Mitsuwa market, so I was hoping Kura 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 taste and preparation of the sushi shari (sushi rice), but I was too thrown off with the thin 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 Kura 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 am I calling a yucky ho? Or what I am saying is a yukhoe which is not spelled out anywhere as to how to pronounce it or what it is. So unless you are very familiar with Asian cuisine, you will not know that it is a Korean word which means “yuk” (meat) and “hoe” (sashimi/raw fish).
It would be great if Kura 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.
You won’t find Americanized rolls in Japan, but this is one of the menu tweaks for US diners.
Check out Food Lover Girl who has a write up of Fort Lee, New Jersey, Kura Sushi that will put my write up to shame because she has a ton of pictures and written content to match.I always support my fellow bloggers with legit content.
All the Things Not to Do at Kura Sushi
A LOT, read the signs throughout Kura Sushi.
Rolls, Rolls, Rolls and Rolls
Ohhhhh, I know you don’t like those rolls when they muffin tops over your jeans, but how could you not love 1 of the 24 makizushi (sushi rolls) that Kura Sushi offers? Each is drenched in varying tasty sauces, although the only downside is that some rolls are unavailable at some locations. Except, that probably won’t matter because the four or five rolls I had, were tasty enough for Lilee and myself to be content. Well, not till I had some cheesecake, and for the record, she finished off two slices (#beastmode, she has bigger muscles).
What I have realized about Kura Sushi is that this restaurant entity is gaaaaaaangsta, and they are unapologetically Japanese to have gone about expanding this rapidly in the manner they have (I just hope they did not over extend themselves).I am massively impressed by this company.
|Do they take reservations?||No, but their waitlist is offered during store business hours. Once you are added to their waitlist, they will send text message update notifications until your number is called. Please make sure to have the entire party together to be seated. There is a 15-minute grace period after your number is called if you and your entire party are not present.|
|Service animals allowed?||Yes of course! They allow service animals in our restaurants, and they follow guidelines that state only dogs that are trained to perform specific tasks to support disability are defined as service animals.|
|How can I sign up for Kura Rewards Program?||Click on the link below and download the Kura Sushi App.|
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/kura-sushi/id1544122146
Google Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.acropoint.kuramobileapp&pli=1
|Can they accommodate large parties?||Yes! They accommodate parties up to 8 persons via their waitlist kiosk at the front door or through online check-in (it may vary by locations). All tables are booth settings and can seat up to 6 guests. For everyone to enjoy Conveyor belt experience, they usually seat larger parties in 2 separate booths close to each other.|
Kura Revolving Sushi Bar
The location featured:
The first location in the US
2700 Alton Pkwy., Ste. 133
Irvine, CA 92606