Dec 2008

Fat Fish – Los Angeles (Koreatown)

To truly enjoy conveyor belt sushi, one must be in the proper mindset. The ideal time is right after work, when one’s brain is too fried to place a proper order and one’s belly is growling for sustenance. It is imperative that conveyor belt sushi be reserved for these times when the conditions are just right, otherwise, disappointment will likely ensue. Furthermore, all those seeking a traditional sushi experience should make plans to eat elsewhere, because these types of places are anything but traditional.

Conveyor belt sushi was invented by Yoshiaki Shiraishi (1914-2001), who had problems staffing his small sushi restaurant and had difficulties managing the restaurant by himself. He got the idea of a conveyor belt sushi after watching beer bottles on a conveyor belt in an Asahi brewery. After 5 years of development, including the design of the conveyor belt and the speed of operations, Mr. Shiraishi opened the first conveyor belt sushi Mawaru Genroku Sushi in Osaka in 1958, quickly creating a chain of 240 restaurants all over Japan, however the number of restaurants was down to 11 in 2001. Mr. Shiraishi also invented a robotic sushi, served by robots, but this idea has not had commercial success.

The Astronomer and I dined at Fat Fish in Koreatown on a random weeknight after work. I was mentally exhausted, and my body and pockets were running on empty—the conditions were optimal for conveyor belt sushi.

Fat Fish’s modern space is well-appointed and staffed by friendly people. The crowd was predominantly Asian, which wasn’t a surprise since the eatery is located in the heart of Koreatown. What was surprising was the number of business-suit-types partaking in the sushi-on-the-cheap experience. I guess the down economy is hurting everyone.

We were seated promptly upon arrival along the conveyor belt’s path and were served complimentary miso soup to start.

The first plate to catch my eye featured salmon cubes placed atop half an avocado ($3). In between the fish and the buttery avocado was a layer of crispy rice. This creation, along with the bulk of the rolls we sampled this evening, was totally different than any sushi I’ve ever eaten. For an avocado-lover like myself, I found it highly enjoyable.

For his first roll, The Astronomer grabbed a spicy tuna whimsically topped with seaweed salad ($3). The spicy sauce drizzled underneath the roll was the dominant flavor. The seaweed salad was a unique touch that we neither loved nor loathed.

“Is that cheese on top of the roll?” I asked The Astronomer. “Yes, I do believe it is,” he replied. “Let’s try it,” I said a little too enthusiastically. This roll was certifiably bananas—crab, cucumber, cheese, tobiko, and Kabayaki sauce ($3). Compositionally speaking, the roll was weird as hell, but taste-wise, it was pleasant on the palate.

My next pick was a duo of crispy rice rectangles topped with tuna, jalapeno and Kabayaki sauce ($2.50). The flavors at Fat Fish are not simple and clean like that of traditional sushi. Here, the fishes are dressed to the nines, which results in both hits and misses. This one wasn’t particularly great, but it wasn’t terrible either. I’m sensing a theme here…

These yellowtail nigiri were topped with caramelized onions ($2). While I found that the onion’s sweetness overpowered the delicate fish, The Astronomer thought the flavors worked together nicely.

This next roll gave the above cheese roll a run for it’s money for the strangest roll of the night ($3). The giant tempura battered roll contained crab, cream cheese, eel and Kabayaki sauce. I ate the roll in two bites to keep like-flavors together. The first bite contained the crab and cream cheese, while the eel and Kabayaki sauce were reserved for a separate bite. Can a roll be both a hit and a miss?

The Astronomer was tempted by the plates of noodles all night long, but avoided them because they weren’t sushi. After a couple of rounds of very strange sushi, he finally gave in and grabbed some carbs off the conveyor belt. The thick, square-shaped noodles were dressed with pesto and topped with panko crusted salmon ($3). The salmon’s crust was mushy by the time we dug in, but the noodles were in tip-top shape. The pickled red peppers on the side were a nice addition.

I placed a special order with the chef for my final plate of the evening—inari sushi ($2.50). Inari sushi is one of my all-time favorites. The vinegary rice wrapped inside the sweet tofu skin is a great combination of flavors.

The waitress calculated our bill by counting up the dirty plates at our table. Fat Fish offers a 50% discount on all sushi during peak dining hours, which is awfully nice of them. The prices quoted in this post reflect the discount.

Fat Fish
3300 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Phone: 213-384-1304

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6 thoughts on “Fat Fish – Los Angeles (Koreatown)

  1. Elle – If you hop a flight, the sushi will be my treat 😉

    Chung – You’re right! It is very much like a deconstructed roll. Six bucks is steep, but no one ever pays that much. I think that the half off deal is a marketing ploy to make people feel good about saving money. I wouldn’t be surprised if diners actually spent more money due to the windfall.

    Su-Lin – Believe it or not, the average sushi roll in America goes for about 9 to 11 bucks. The “full” price at Fat Fish is actually cheap in comparison, but nobody dines their during off-peak hours.

  2. I haven’t been to a conveyor belt sushi place in quite a while, definitely not since the crazy nuevo rolls have taken over the menu… I guess I would like the conveyor belt too, that way you just grab something that looks good eh? I also like the crispy rice cake things, sounds like a fun time.

  3. foodhoe – The #1 downfall of conveyor belt sushi, especially in the time of crazy nuevo rolls, is that you don’t know what the heck you’re putting in your mouth until you actually do so! Other than that, conveyor belt sushi is the best kind of instant gratification.

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