The popularity of kaiten-zushi has revolutionized the eating of sushi since its inception in Japan in the late 1950s. No longer do customers have to sit at a bar with limited seating and order from the sushi chef who promptly and expertly makes it while you wait. Instead, a conveyor belt with ready-made sushi snakes its way clockwise through the restaurant, gliding past customers who both face the belt at the bar or sit crosswise in booths. There is no longer a master sushi maker (typically) but chefs who can still put out decent product. In order to reduce cost, most of these restaurants use automatic nigiri making machines, a far cry from the art of making sushi-meshi (sushi rice) that can take an apprentice years to master. And while a master sushi chef knows how to purchase and identify the best quality seafood, the kaiten chefs usually rely on prepackaged seafood from a wholesaler. You can argue that this concept demeans the traditional sushi-making and eating experience or democratizes it so that more people can enjoy it. Sushi typically comes three on a plate which, along with other dishes such as boiled edamame, fried calamari and shrimp, or desserts, customers can remove from the belt and eat. The plates are color-coded which determines their price, almost always under $5. Let’s just say that I’ve done my fair share of eating at kaiten-zushis and enjoyed them, even when I’ll have to admit that none of them has ever given me a “wow” experience. For that, I hope I don’t have to eat and pay a king’s ransom at Jiro in Tokyo.
Genki Sushi is a chain of kaiten-zushi started in Japan in 1990. It has since expanded throughout the world with almost 200 branches. In the U. S., it quickly gained traction in Hawaii before spreading eastward to Washington state and California. The one in Bellevue is located in Factoria Mall, accessible both from inside the mall and outside. Like most sushi restaurants of this type, it is longer in one dimension than the other to make it easier for the preparers to load the moving belt from their work area.
As at other kaiten-zushis, the food, if not first-rate, was fine overall, fresh-tasting and satisfying (☆☆½), definitely easy on the wallet. The ramen, on the other hand, was weak (☆☆). Genki has also joined the ranks of others in offering certain sushis topped with sauces, most of them mayonnaise-y or sweet-and-spicy, which depending on your point-of-view is either horrifying (non-traditional) or greatly expands the variety. You take your pick.
3928 Factoria Square Mall SE
Bellevue, WA 98006