Evolve dinner with revolving sushi
Come on, ride the (sushi) train at Umai; photos by Tomas Flint
Umai Revolving Sushi
2833 Monroe Ave., Rochester
Rochester’s first conveyor belt sushi restaurant, Umai Revolving Sushi, opened recently in Pittsford. Conveyor belt sushi (kaiten-zushi) has existed in Japan and other countries for decades. It was invented as a way to get around staffing shortages but has since grown to become both a unique dining experience and a fast meal.
Kaiten-zushi is a rare instance of a successful marriage between convenience and quality. Small plates of the same high caliber sushi, nigiri, maki, etc. from Umai’s menu are prepared by the sushi chefs and placed on a conveyor belt. The belt, full of different dishes (sushi, appetizers, etc.), is designed to pass through each table in the dining room. Each collection of a dish is labeled with its name and ingredients. If a particular plate catches your eye, you simply take it off the conveyor belt and enjoy.
Two of my favorite things about Umai are:
1.) The variety! Since the items on the belt are smaller portions, I appreciate being able to try half a new maki roll or two pieces of nigiri instead of committing to an entire order. Also, the selection on the conveyor belt changes throughout the day so if nothing strikes my fancy, I sometimes just wait to see what will appear next.
2.) The convenience! Once you are seated, you do not have to wait for the staff to place your order. Whether you are feeling hangry or have limited time for lunch, you can start pulling small plates off the conveyor belt right away.
Should you feel overwhelmed or underwhelmed by the choices on the belt, you can also order specific menu items via the ordering tablet at your table. At Umai, there is a second conveyor belt that runs above the continually stocked belt to deliver your special orders right to your table. It is a sleek delivery system (and also a great way to make everyone envious when the crispy vegetable tempura stops at your table.)
If you are dipping your toe gently into raw sushi, try the seared salmon nigiri. The salmon is incredibly fresh, has a luscious texture, and a has slight smoky tone from the sear on top. The Sunshine roll will be a great choice for both newbies and experts. Salmon, spicy krab, avocado and crispy crunchies—what’s not to love? There are also several cooked sushi/non sushi entrees for the picky eaters who persist in your life. Umai also offers beer, wine, sake, and cocktails to help you tune out the picky eaters.
If you are vegetarian (or not), I insist you try the inari sushi. Pockets of tofu skin (I promise it is much tastier than it sounds) stuffed with seasoned sushi rice—it sounds simple but it is tricky to keep the tofu skin from drying out and the rice from getting soggy. Umai’s version is one of the best I have ever had. Umai has a range of vegetarian/vegan appetizers, rolls, and hot dishes (eg., fried noodles, fried rice, vegetable dumplings).
When you are done with the umami part of your dinner at Umai, order the taiyaki, a fish-shaped buttery pastry filled with sweetened red bean paste, served warm with a side of vanilla ice cream. Brownie sundae who?
Back in the day™, conveyor belt sushi restaurants either manually counted the empty plates or the plates dropped off into a receptacle to calculate the bill. At Umai, there are sensors that automatically track when one pulls a plate off the belt. You can always review your running bill total on the tablet, a handy feature given that it is easy to lose track as you are lured back to the belt by the next plate of enticing sushi.