I have a new sushi buddy, and his name is Mr. Fresh. We mostly hang on weekends, but he’s there for me seven days a week, from lunchtime till midnight. And he never shames me for being germophobic.
Then again, Mr. Fresh doesn’t say much of anything … since he’s a clear, plastic container at Kura Revolving Sushi Bar in Chinatown’s new Shanghai Plaza. His job: making sure no one messes with the food as it twists through the restaurant. Here’s how it works: Dishes—from two-piece servings of salmon, squid and sweet shrimp nigiri to three-piece rainbow and tiger roll sections—are loaded onto a conveyor belt that motors past your table. Protecting each plate is the vigilant Mr. Fresh, springing open only when you indicate you wish to consume its contents. Most dishes on the belt cost $2.50, which means you can share a sizable 10-plate meal with a companion for $12 each (beer, tax and tip aside). And if you don’t see what you want gliding by—or if you crave a hot item like ramen or udon soup, ($5-$6.50), an eel and avocado hand roll ($2.50) or garlic fried rice ($5)—tap a touchscreen, and it’ll arrive moments later on a secondary belt.
Enough logistics. How good is the food? No one will mistake it for Yui Edomae’s high-end omakase, but it’s in the same ballpark as my neighborhood joint. A couple bites stood out during recent visits: hamachi dusted with sesame and diced scallions, and a spicy popcorn shrimp roll that kicks up a California roll with fried shrimp, masago and a fiery sauce. On the downside, the rice-to-fish ratio on some nigiri seems off, with carpaccio-thin tuna draped atop tall balls of rice.
Still, there’s no denying Kura’s appeal. Discarded plates go down a shoot at the end of each table; send in 15 and you win a prize. Sometimes anime characters appear on-screen, imploring you to do something (most likely eat more) to help save someone. It’s fun and casual and has apparently helped Kura expand to more than 400 locations (!) in its native Japan. Throw in the comforting companionship of Mr. Fresh and you’ve got a concept likely to win over Las Vegans hungry for an entertaining meal.
KURA REVOLVING SUSHI 4258 Spring Mountain Road #108, 725-214-5024. Daily, 11:30 a.m.-midnight.