Osaka, Japan - Day 4, sushi trains

Japan is all about the sushi, and you can't say you've had sushi until you've at least been to a sushi train. For Yuye and I, one sushi train experience (consumed on day 2 of our trip here) just wasn't enough to satisfy those unsuppressible sushi cravings so on day 4, we had it again for dinner. Not just one store either, we went sushi train hopping to get more variety out of the night (probably the first time you've heard that one right?) and went to a whopping two sushi trains in one night.

The first one we went to was called Akagakiya Kaitensushi (赤垣屋回転すし) in the Osaka Namba area. All dishes were advertised as 120Yen per plate which is just cheap beyond comprehension, for us Melburnians anyway. The seafood was fresh, vivid and tasty. I absolutely love the intense flavours that wasabi and soy sauce give the otherwise very subtle taste of sea and vinegar-ed rice. Some like it plain where you can enjoy the natural taste of raw fish and other seafood but for me, it's all about the combination of flavours that complement each other so well. I especially like a big fat dab of wasabi that goes straight to my nose and make me teary. Love it. It's especially effective against stuffy noses.

The best thing about sushi trains in Japan is the ability to grab any plate from the conveyor belt without needing to say anything remotely stupid to the waiters. That's why foreigners love these cosy little restaurants. Yes, people might look at you funny anyway but at least you can pretend to know what you're doing. Since we had already been once before, we were able to identify most of what was on offer. Our first plate was the beloved sea urchin sushi (uni) wrapped in seaweed (nori). It was as fresh as fresh can be and didn't need much soy sauce as the uni itself is already salty.

The second plate is one that most sushi eaters in western society will know about - kingfish. If you have sushi or sashimi often, you'll see three types of fish that are always used. They are tuna, salmon and kingfish. They're what I call the 'traffic lights' of the sushi world. Red, orange and uh…white. Well, almost traffic lights. I love the texture of fresh raw fish. This kingfish was just pure indulgence. It's soft enough to almost melt in your mouth and hard enough for there to be some bite. In my opinion, raw fish (as they don't have too much taste on their own) is all about the textures and freshness.

Next plate is our all time favourite negi toro (tuna belly with spring onions). We just can't seem to keep our hands and mouths away from these beauties! The toro is so juicy that it literally melts away in your mouth. Combined with the crunch of the negi and seaweed and their individual flavours, a perfect harmony is created.

Apparently mackerel (saba) is always cured or marinated in some way. This is different to Spanish mackerel (sawara) and horse mackerel (aji) which are usually eaten raw and are sliced just before serving. This I think is because mackerel has a very strong fishy taste which might be overpowering for some people. I always get confused with these three fish. If I was in a Masterchef elimination and I had to identify which was which, I wouldn't be able to do it to save my life. But now at least I know that saba is cured. I must admit, saba's not my favourite type of sushi. Even cured, it still has a very pungent aroma of the sea which can only be described as 'fishy'. However, Yuye seems to love it.

Sweet prawns (ama ebi) is also one of those lovely sushis that highlight the greatness of fresh seafood. You can eat it without dipping any sauce and still have this subtle sweet taste that lingers in your mouth. It's a shame this was the only time we had prawns on the trip.

Just when I started to think that I'm getting better at identifying my sushi, this one comes along. What in the world was it? I can't even tell whether it was fish or some sort of shellfish. If someone can kindly tell me, I'd forever be in your debt.

This one was a bit easier to identify. Yuye taught me a trip to tell this fish apart with the kingfish. Notice the red strip on the edge of the fish? If the colour is light and more see through, it's snapper (tai). If the red is darker and flesh is more textured, it's kingfish. So this one is by default, snapper. Like the snapper in Australia, the flesh is soft and not very pungent, a fish that needs complementary ingredients and sauces to bring out its beautiful flavour.

The baby squid might not be everyone's cup of tea. I admit, when I saw it, there was a tiny voice inside me that said 'are you sure you want to eat THAT?'. I think it's just the idea of all the slimy tentacles going down my throat that scared me. It's also because of all the youtube videos I've watched of Koreans eating live moving baby octopuses where every bite can potentially be suicide (if the tentacles get stuck in your throat, you might die from suffocation). Luckily these ones weren't moving and are quite different from octopuses. It was to my surprise, quite enjoyable (if you take the fear factor away). Unlike fish, it has a crunchier texture that requires a bit more chew.

Raw scallops is another one of my all time favourites. Its appearance on sushi platters can make all the difference whether I like or dislike a restaurant and most of the time, I will eat that one first (before anyone else can take it ha!). As I had been scallop deprived on our last sushi train visit, we (on my request) ordered 3 plates of scallop sushi. I may have had more than my share as well. That's how much I like it! If you haven't yet had the chance to try one, it's really to die for. Trust me. Scallops are soft, moist and not at all fishy and like prawns, has a natural sweetness that really brings out the goodness in raw foods.

I've admitted never had kani miso (crab miso)until this Japan trip. Kani miso is a brown, grey coloured paste that you can buy in Japanese supermarkets which is made from ground up crab innards. You know the brown stuff when you open up a freshly cooked crab? Yeah that pungent stuff. This sushi is made of the kani miso and shredded crab meat wrapped in seafood which makes it not as strong in flavour and smell. If this looks strong to you, wait till you read my post later on when we visited the famous Kani Doraku store also in Osaka. It literally made me sick because of the oiliness. This sushi however, was quite lovely and unmistakably spells CRAB. For crab lovers, this is heaven. Yuye loves the stuff whereas I was just so-so.

Look at the vibrant colours of the salmon roe (ikura)! I always love a little fun popping these sea tasting balls of joy. Instead of eating the sushi whole, I often like to eat the roe one by one and pop them between my teeth. I love it when the strong salty taste takes over my tastebuds. This sushi also doesn't need much sauce as it's salty enough by itself.

This one is easy to identify even for beginners. Of course it's tuna (maguro). It was very good tuna though. The texture of tuna is quite different to salmon and other fish in that it's a bit grainy and not as oily (not tuna belly of course, tuna belly is TOTALLY oily and oh so good). Bad tuna can be quite tasteless and stringy (some places don't take out the sinews). I love the deep red colour of good tuna, it's almost able to mesmerise me.

Yes, we started running out of options at that sushi train. The choices we made are starting to look a bit boring. As Yuye doesn't like eel (unagi), we ordered it as a last resort really. I ate both of them. It's still very tasty of course and unagi is one of my favourite things to order at Japanese restaurants. I love a steaming hot unagi on top of rice topped with lots of that sweet unary sauce.

Our last dish for the day (at this store anyway) was the usual salmon (we had a total of 17 plates). Boring I know but can't leave without ordering the usual. This was also when we realised that there isn't anything else we'd possibly like to eat. As you can eat as many or as few as you'd like in sushi trains, we decided to skip this joint and find ourselves sushi that were a bit different.

Note, if you don't feel like sushi train, they also have a la carte upstairs from the sushi train.

Akagakiya Kaitensushi (赤垣屋回転すし)
Phone: 06-6641-5111
Osaka Chuo-ku, Namba 3 chome 1-16, level 1
Opening hours: Sunday 10am - 11pm, all other days 11am - 11pm

And we found this place, Genroku Sushi (元禄寿司) just a street away. Although at 130Yen per plate, a tiny bit more expensive, the sushi variety was clearly more interesting and tasted better.

Is this one tuna belly? I don't think so but I'm not sure what it was. I was too excited at the idea of sushi train hopping that I really didn't notice what I was eating at the start.

I can't believe we didn't have any sushi rolls! It was about time. This one was salmon and cucumber roll with salmon roe on top. Very nice and different to all the nigiri sushis we've had up until now. I'm secretly in love with seaweed so anything wrapped in seaweed will be loved by me.

Yet another kani miso. This one's not as intense in flavour which was a good thing for me. Notice the big different in colour of the miso. Perhaps the store makes it themselves?

Anago which is salt-water eel, is very different to the usual eel (unagi) that you see in Japanese restaurants. You will find it in restaurants on the classy end and on the most part tastes less saucy, fresher and more juicy. Unagi is often pre-cooked and packaged whereas anago is cooked on the premises. Yuye obviously likes anago more than unagi.

I love scorched salmon belly. When a fatty fish is scorched, it really brings out that fatty fishy taste. I'm usually not a big fan of cooked fish (as I'm such a meat eater), however, slightly cooked salmon is one of those indulgences that never fails to impress me. That is one of the main reasons I'm in love with Shiranui in Glen Waverley, all because of their blow-torching skills and fantastic sauces.

Another salmon, but this time it was marinated in sweet soy and topped with sesame seeds. It doesn't need to be dipped since it has flavour infused already. I still like the scorched salmon belly more.

How can we ever get enough of negi toro, really. You can see the fat in this one, freshly ground up tuna belly offcuts were carefully assemble into this beautiful creation. I can't remember how many we had, but it was definitely more than one.

I can't even remember ordering this sushi. It looked like tuna topped with a whole lot of onions. My memory is starting to fail me again.

At the time of ordering this, I had no idea that I'd have crab poisoning later on during the trip (it wasn't real poisoning, I was just sick). It was good that at the time, I still loved eating anything crabby so I embraced this crab leg sushi. It was sweet and succulent, freshly steamed and still juicy.

We had yet to have cooked beef so this was it. Beef topped with grated daikon and spring onions which melted in my mouth. So absolutely delicious.

Lucky last of the night (for real this time) is another salmon sushi! This time it was really fat salmon belly, with the skin slightly scorched, and topped with grated daikon and spring onions. A great finish to the fantastic night. I would totally do sushi train hopping again, and who wouldn't when you can get so much out of just one night!

Genroku Sushi Sennichimae Store(元禄寿司)
Phone: 06-6644-4908
Osaka Chuo-ku, Sennichimae, 2-11-4
Opening hours: 10am - 11:15pm

My next post is all about our visit to Miyajima, an island right next to Hiroshima. It's famous for the huge floating torii gate, deer, oysters and many more! Stay tuned my readers.

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  1. These are all so beautiful! I'd like a bite out of each one so I could taste them all.

  2. @Maureen, I know! I'm getting hungry and sad lookinga at the photos..won't get to eat them for a very long time.


  4. @batasan, calm down! haha It's only great sushi :P

  5. Excuse me, i own a blog as well but i cant get to display the pictures as beautifully as yours does. Mine are rather small and pathetic while yours look absolutely glorious! Can you please tell me how did you do it?..I urgently require some help..