Newest Review: ... great way to space out your choosing is to order a miso soup at the start of the meal, it gets unlimited refills so just flag someone do... more
***** A Fish Hater's Guide To Sushi *****
Member Name: malibu_jenny
Advantages: A fun eating experience without too much hanging around.
Disadvantages: It's not what it used to be and seems to operate on half a menu.
I was giddy with excitement when the first Yo Sushi opened in Poland Street, Soho. The rumours of robot servers and exciting dishes lured The Boyfriend and I to the shiny restaurant, but sadly we let ourselves down by tuning up despicably drunk. Unfamiliar with Sushi at the time, we sat down at the conveyor and slurred through a confusing menu while stuffing down several passing puddings. Our server was no help at all and eventually we left, hungry and amused.
But Yo Sushi upped their game, put pictures on the menu and opened pretty, bite sized restaurants. I'm vegetarian and not keen on fish in the slightest - you might wonder what I was doing in a sushi restaurant in the first place - but they now cater for me. I've been back many a time with Dad, with colleagues, with friends (The Boyfriend never really got over the first terrible experience).
If you haven't been before, the restaurants are gloriously shiny and colourful, with a mixture of seating; a bar and tables. A thin metal conveyor belt runs alongside the tables, through the bar and winds its way back through to the kitchen carrying small coloured plastic bubbles with food inside. The tables are designed with two taps (fizzy and still water) and small plates in an indent for dipping sauces or sharing. The wasabi (hot green mustard), thin slices of ginger and soy sauce sit in the centre. You have a button to call your server, but the idea is that you choose your food from the conveyor and only call them for the hot dishes or perhaps a top up on your green tea.
My most recent visit, today, was with Gourmet Girl. She and I used to be friends, lost touch for near enough ten years and after a chance meeting are catching up over a series of lazy lunches. She's making organic food, I'm on Maternity leave and generally we have more time than money. Today we had a 40% off voucher and a big appetite. Arriving at the side door, we were quickly seated with a table that suited us perfectly and gave room for the pram. I asked for a green tea, which has free refills and with no further ado, we got stuck in.
The good thing about Yo Sushi is that you can see the food and then choose what you want to eat. You can pick and choose and share, you can have three puddings and only your dining companion will know. The little bubbles of food provide an opportunity to try something new without too much commitment and the pretty presentation and fun factor make for an unusual dining experience. It's not just for those who love authentic raw-fish sushi; there are now chicken dishes, noodles and indeed vegetarian choices. Gourmet Girl tucked into spicy rolls of rice and salmon skin, while I searched out the Avocado Maki with their delicious seaweed layers. My tiny daughter, pleased at this change of scene, sat on my lap swiping at the passing plates and chuckling.
But here's why I feel Yo Sushi's star is on the wane. The tables are grubby, the seats sticky and the green tea took an eternity to arrive each time I asked for it. The restaurant was dramatically understaffed, with only one waiter on a busy lunchtime. Annoyingly, my favourite dish, the Pumpkin Korroke, was cold and gluey instead of hot and crisp as it has been on previous visits while the Yakisoba lacks the depth of the Wagamama dish. Many other reviewers in the past complained that you couldn't tell how long the food had been on the conveyor and they have a good point. Yo Sushi countered this criticism by saying that the plastic domes would carry best before times, but only some of the dishes did; some didn't even have the plastic lids.
Only around half of the dishes in the menu appeared on the belt and we were right next to their exit from the kitchen, so we knew no-one else had beaten us to them. A suspicion that they only put the dishes with cheap ingredients out crept into my mind. We asked the waiter where the puddings were and were disappointed to discover that they only had the fruit plate or the unappetising looking Mochi (a glutinous rice cake that resembled mouldy Turkish delight), none of the chocolate ganache or lemon shortbread cake we wanted. I used the toilets and noticed as I passed the kitchen that the food is defrosted out of boxes, with the odd dish deep fried and the sauce dribbed on from containers that would be more at home in the kebab van.
And all these funky little coloured plates of faux-Japanese nonsense come at a hefty price. We were no fuller than we would have been after a cheese and pickle sandwich, yet without that voucher our bill would have come to £70 for this little lunch. A lot of money for a handful of rice and seaweed.
Summary: Leaves you wanting more for your money.