Techno Sushi

Remember those tiny flotillas, endlessly circling with their petite cargos of hamachi, maguro and California rolls? Ah, sushi boats! They’re sailing off into the sunset – and maybe that’s a good thing. Did you know that food-handling regulations permit raw items to voyage around and around for four hours before they’re deemed too old to eat? But wait, that’s not what’s putting those cute little sushi boats into dry dock. They’re being done in by industrial chic conveyor belts. The craze started in Japan, of course, where it’s known as kaiten-zushi. Non-sushi items motor by on the continuous-loop belts there, too – soups, desserts, even packaged foods. It’s like a lazy person’s cafeteria. Now you’ll find conveyor belt sushi restaurants in Seattle, LA, Manhattan and London. I visited a new one that has a particular claim to fame. Lucky Fish is the only U.S. conveyor belt operation with a computer chip on each plate, part of a freshness monitoring system that boots unlucky (unselected, that is) sushi off the belt after an hour. Here’s how it works: when a new plate is placed on the belt, a reader scans it. Then, if it languishes on the belt for too long, the computerized system has a little arm that comes down and ejects it from the belt when the plate rounds home on its final, fatal lap. Lucky Fish is in Beverly Hills, which means that it is hipster chic. Crème brûlée circulates along with spicy tuna rolls. The conveyor belt even cruises by some tables, so a group of four can avoid sitting like birds on a wire. For state-of-the-art sushi, you might want to go elsewhere. But for state-of-the-art technology, this is a mini moving walkway to the future.
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