Sushi Express, Orchid Plaza, Cairns

Work conference is finally over and holiday officially begins! We decided to grab a super light lunch that I really didn’t need after the hotel breakfast buffet, and thought this sushi train place on the second floor of Orchid Plaza would be a good one to try. Reason?

  1. I eat a lot and normally without a giant breakfast beforehand, sushi trains could cost a fortune.
  2. The maximum price of a plate is $3 at Sushi Express, clearly advertised from the outside!

Seriously, you have no idea how many times we’ve walked away from other sushi train places because we don’t know how much we might end up spending. (Alternatively, I could start training myself to eat like a normal person again.) (Hahaha nah.)

At Sunday a little after 1:30 pm, there were a few diners at the small place, a couple of chefs working in the middle, and all of one staff handling reception, register, waiting and clearing of tables. We very quickly discovered that sushi trains are only easy for the chefs and diners, but horribly inconvenient for the lone waitstaff who can’t walk in between. Once we’re seated and hassled her for our water and hot green tea, we waited for the sushi to appear on the conveyor belt.

Sushi Express, Cairns: Sushi Train
Sushi Express, Cairns: The sushi train is actually a train!

Conveyor belt, or a train track! The sushi train at Sushi Express is led by a toy train engine, which I thought was a very cute idea and wondered briefly why other places didn’t do this. Not only does the engine run quite fast so you have to wait for the whole train to come back if you missed it the first time, while we were there, someone had also managed to derail and detach the last carriage. I see now: all it takes is one clumsy / naughty / malicious person and you could lose an entire train of food — a train wreck! That’s why.

Sushi Express, Cairns: Fried Chicken Roll
Sushi Express, Cairns: Fried Chicken Roll

Another complaint I have with sushi trains in general, also experienced a little here at Sushi Express, is their often lack of simpler sushi that I prefer. I did find a precious salmon nigiri among the deep fried and mayonnaise covered items!

Sushi Express, Cairns: Salmon Nigiri
Sushi Express, Cairns: Salmon Nigiri

Although I’m pretty sure customers could order their food directly here as the lady next to me did.

It was only a short stay and we spent $12 for the 4 plates here. A last problem I thought Sushi Express has: as pretentious as this sounds, I think they could change their plate choice; the deep-coloured plates really made the food look dull in comparison and the Chinese theme just looked so out of place.

Click to add a blog post for Sushi Express on Zomato

Japan Village, Enmore

We had almost 2 hours for a proper dinner before our comedy show at Enmore Theatre tonight, and it’s hard to pick one restaurant out of the hundreds in the area of good eats. Richard previously read pretty good reviews about Japan Village, so when we walked past, we thought, why not? (In hindsight, we could have picked something more elaborate given the time we had.)

He got the first half of his order first. The Chicken Katsu Curry ($12.80) comes with a side of mashed potatoes, red pickles, seaweed salad and salad vegetables. The mashed potato reminded him of the one we had Japan Village, Enmore: Chicken Katsu Curry

Japan Village, Enmore: Chicken Katsu Curry ($12.80)

His sushi order, Salmon Avocado Roll ($3) and Prawn Roll ($3), arrived on my sushi platter of champions, the Set A. For $39, the sushi platter gives you 8 pieces of prawn nigiri, 8 salmon nigiri, 8 tuna nigiri, 6 mini salmon uramaki (inside-out rolls), and 6 mini tuna uramaki. Richard’s $3 rolls were great value, and I really enjoyed all of my sushi (salmon = the best!). The wasabi had a good spicy kick, too.

Japan Village, Enmore: Sushi Set A and Rolls
Japan Village, Enmore: Sushi Set A ($39), Salmon Avocado Roll ($3), Prawn Roll ($3)

My only complaint? The eatery is a little small and has so many tables cramped in, the people who ordered takeaway were just standing around our table while we ate. Not for diners fussy about their restaurant environment, but forgivable for fast, fresh, cheap sushi. smile

Japan Village on Urbanspoon

Moim Japanese Kitchen, Kirrawee

Moim Kitchen in Kirrawee offers predominantly Japanese foods such as sushi, sashimi and udon, but also other Asian dishes such as Korean bulgogi and bibimbap, and Chinese-inspired sweet and sour chicken. We had a 7:30 pm booking for our catch-up dinner, with two vegetarians at our table of eight!

We were unfortunate enough tonight to be seated in the back function room next to a table of a dozen happy, loud and tipsy ladies, and later a table in the other direction of a group celebrating a birthday. The noise level was quite awful for the large part of the night, but we’re here for the food as much as the catching up. No? Just me? tongue

Our table got the Moim Banquet A ($35 per person), customised to feed the vegetarians, and Richard and I decided to be uncooperative and opted out of it. Did I mention that half our table also arrived late? That, set menu deviations, and a quarter of the table not even interested in it. Sounds like the perfect setup for unhappy staff.

Dishes from the banquet gradually appeared in the order of the menu (which I didn’t take many pictures of because I didn’t want to be too disruptive), and I waited and waited for my sushi platter to show up. Richard got his chicken katsu rolls and karaage udon first.

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Chicken Katsu Rolls
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Chicken Katsu Rolls ($8.80)

Hmm, not the most visually appealing sushi rolls, also a little small in size. The udon with the 3 pieces of chicken karaage smelt so good, though.

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Karaage Chicken Udon
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Karaage Chicken Udon ($13.80)

I was getting quite impatient, but my platter finally arrived about an hour after order. The Sushi & Sashimi Combo 2 ($41.80) has the following items:

  • 4 oysters
  • a dozen slices of various sashimi (6 slices of salmon, 3 tuna, 3 kingfish)
  • 3 fresh nigiri (1 salmon, 1 tuna, 1 kingfish)
  • 6 aburi salmon nigiri
  • 8 unnamed maki (“sushiroll”)
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Sushi & Sashimi Combo 2
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Sushi & Sashimi Combo 2 ($41.80)

The Combo 2 platter, along with the junior Combo 1 ($23.80), are the only menu items that offer traditional nigiri. While the raw seafood tasted fresh and the aburi salmon super delicious, I didn’t really like the mysterious sushi rolls with the salad filling (which I later identified to be the “Kirrawee” rolls on the menu — probably). There’s nothing inherently wrong with the rolls apart from its messier appearance; it’s just not the type of sushi I would normally order. I wish Moim offered independent fresh nigiri items on the menu.

There was plenty of food to go around (or the shameless gimme some of those food vibes that I broadcast worked), so I got to try a few main dishes from the Moim Banquet A.

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Mixed BBQ
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Mixed BBQ (part of Banquet A)

Barbecued chicken, beef (bulgogi) and pork belly! The Mixed BBQ plate could probably have been substituted for the vegetable grill, but I was glad they kept the meat version. My favourite was the well-marinated chicken. To quote one of the fellow meateaters: “I like the taste of death.” tongue

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Chicken Shabu Shabu
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Chicken Shabu Shabu (part of Banquet A)

This arrived as the last big dish before dessert! I thought shabu shabu was always thinly sliced beef, but we had the chicken variation tonight. The pot has a cellophane noodle base with a lot of vegetables and cooked chicken sitting on top. Got to love a hearty pot of fresh vegetables on the stove! (I might have finished most of it.)

Moim Japanese Kitchen: Spring Rolls
Moim Japanese Kitchen: Spring Rolls (complimentary; $4 otherwise)

If starting late and customising the banquet menu weren’t enough to upset the staff, we didn’t realise we were massively overstaying until one of them told us that they in fact closed at 10 pm, 40 minutes ago! On our way out, the staff were actually still smiling and thanked us for dining there.

How well a non-vegetarian restaurant cater for vegans and vegetarians had never been something I paid much attention to, and I was quite impressed with how Moim juggled everything. Despite the largely positive experience, I don’t quite see myself returning for the sushi. Maybe to try the bibimbap?

Moim Japanese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl, Narita International Airport Terminal 2, Japan

Richard has had various Japanese foods during the trip including tonkatsu, curry (cheated by having the two-in-one tonkatsu curry rice), ramen, karaage and yakiniku. The next on the list is sushi, and we wouldn’t accept any alternative, even if it means having airport sushi!

There weren’t a lot of restaurants available after customs at Terminal 2 of the Narita International Airport, but thankfully Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl on 3F had a sushi meal on display. For 1,450 yen (~A$15.60), you get a meal with miso clam soup. There was also a 1,600 yen option with a small udon noodles.

Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl: Table and Buzzers
Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl: Table and Buzzers

We received a buzzer that we’re meant to use on our table sensor. We both got the sushi meal with clam soup, and the food was delivered to us shortly. There was a little confusion about the extra drink that Richard ordered, and I was surprised that the airport restaurant staff didn’t quite understand English, but all was good in the end.

Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl: Sushi Meal w Clam Miso Soup
Asian Cafe Bowl Bowl: Sushi Meal w Clam Miso Soup

The meal actually looked very similar to the plastic model display and far surpassed my expectations of airport food. I enjoyed it them — I ordered two of these for myself because obviously one can’t possibly be enough now. tongue

Tsukiji Tama Sushi, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

Tsukiji Tama Sushi (築地玉寿司) is located on the 13th floor of the Shinjuku Takashimiya (新宿高島屋) department store building. We weren’t sure what to have for lunch at first, but I immediately voted for the restaurant when I saw the all-you-can-eat (食べ放題) menu on the front door.

Tama Sushi: Front Door Promo
Tama Sushi: tabehoudai (all-you-can-eat) price and rules on the front door

They charge different prices for male and female customers: male 4860 yen (~A$52) and female 3780 yen (~A$40), so even though there’s no time limit, it’s not exactly cheap. I bet they have also never seen a female customer like me: I routinely eat more than most, if not all, of my male peers.

We got there at about 1:30 pm. The restaurant looked about half-full when we visited, but we had to wait before we were seated. The sushi was made fresh to order, so each platter of 10-12 pieces of sushi took a while to get to the table. I briefly chatted with the couple from Gold Coast sitting at the next table.

Tama Sushi: Sushi Menu
Tama Sushi: the full sushi menu; not all was available that afternoon

Not every item was available (a lot of the expensive ones were conveniently off the menu), but the sushi we did get was all super delicious. Our favourite was the grilled salmon (炙りサーモン); I think we ordered some 20-30 pieces of those.

Tama Sushi: Sushi is Here
Tama Sushi: all the sushi! Yum!

It was a very satisfying meal. The two friends left early after they have had enough. The brother and I stayed for a few more rounds. We could have eaten more, but we had a group dinner coming up in a few hours so we decided against it. After all that sushi, though, we both became very thirsty. What was it? Did they use a lot of salt in their seasoning?

Still enjoyed it a whole lot. I definitely ate much more than what I paid for.