The first kaiten-zushi, or conveyor belt sushi shop, opened in Japan in 1958. From there, the fast food sushi concept slowly crept across the world. In the Treasure Valley, Shige Express has owned the floating sushi boat scene for the past few years—with two locations that serve small plates that drift by diners in a revolving moat. Now there is a new rotating sushi spot in town—fittingly called Rotary Sushi—that has ditched the water for shiny, stainless steel belts.
Squeezed into a strip mall adjacent to China Grand Buffet on Fairview Avenue and Five Mile Road, Rotary Sushi has a more contemporary vibe than its modest exterior lets on. Inside, the space is sleek and modern, with a rectangular black marble bar that encloses two sushi chefs. Lipstick red high-backed chairs surround the bar, which is topped with the elevated conveyor belt. Patrons pluck covered plates of sushi from the belt, each one color-coded for price: yellow and orange are $1.99, green and blue are $2.99, red is $3.99, and purple and black are $4.99.
Once you're seated at the bar, a server brings a plate of wasabi and ginger, a hot bowl of miso soup and takes your beverage order: Currently the booze menu is limited to Sapporo, Kirin Ichiban, Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light and an unnamed sake. While you eat spoonfuls of the salty miso, with thick slivers of seaweed snaking through the murky broth, a parade of dishes slowly glides by—everything from American standards like California rolls and spicy tuna rolls, to more over-the-top creations draped with yellowtail and topped with mounds of tempura and mayo. Each plate contains three coins of a roll or two pieces of nigiri. The salmon nigiri is probably the best deal in the place: Two fat slabs of pink fish resting on two mounds of sticky rice for $3.99.
In addition to the plates drifting by on the belt, diners can also make requests from the sushi chefs or order off the menu. Though most of the chef's special rolls contain cream cheese and other deep-fried nonsense, there are some more eclectic offerings like the salmon skin salad ($5.99) and the baby tako salad ($4.99), which features five or so tender baby octopuses tossed a reddish brown, sesame-heavy sauce with a sprinkle of green onions and sesame seeds. The pork gyoza ($4.99), while not unusual, are unusually juicy and encased in a crisp, not-too-doughy shell.
Perhaps the most unique item during a recent visit to Rotary Sushi was an order of fresh uni nigiri ($7.99), or sea urchin roe, which had been special-ordered from Seattle. The vivid, mustard yellow roe from the spiny sea animal had a mildly sweet, briny taste and a texture that fell somewhere between mushy avocado and custard. It was definitely an experience—but maybe not one to be repeated. A visit to Rotary Sushi should be repeated, though. It's a welcome addition to a neighborhood lacking a diversity of options.