First Look at Yushi’s Conveyor Belt, Which Opens on Monday
So, Yushi’s conveyor belt opens to the public on Monday- and to ensure that they are ready to go they had a free lunch yesterday to test it out and get customer feedback. 3 Midtown Lunchers won spots, and were allowed to bring guests. Here is what they had to say, complete with photos (of course keeping in mind that everything tastes better when it’s free! I wonder what they would have said, had they gotten a bill at the end of the meal):
“I love food but I also enjoy being healthy so I do eat at Yushi often. I love Japanese food and sushi and think that although it is typically pricey, it’s worth it for what you get. I was very pleased to be a part of the conveyor belt experiment, and really enjoyed all the food. The salmon sushi and sashimi was very fresh and for about $5 you get four pieces of salmon (sushi, sashimi or a combination) with a side of seaweed salad. Not a bad price for the quality you get. There were the normal options they have with soups, dumplings and chicken teriyaki, and I have to say they were all flavorful and fresh. We enjoyed seared tuna sashimi as well with a side of seaweed salad, chicken teriyaki rolls, and even chocolate mousse dessert. The people who worked there wanted you to enjoy the experience, so we were also able to enjoy some sake with our lunch on the house. Very much appreciated it. I think all in all, it may be slightly over the $10 midtown lunch limit, but if you go with another person you can enjoy the variety and quality. Thank you for randomly choosing me as a yushi guest— my husband and I definitely appreciated it! Regards, Rosie”
Well, I am not going to lie to you all. It was AMAZING!!!! I, and my guest, ate like Gluttons. First, I am a liberated pro-women, feminist/equalist guy… But the Staff— GOOD GOD!!! Food for the eyes, my friends, food for the eyes. The food on the conveyor was excellent—- I especially enjoyed the California Maki rolls, which were real crab, not that fake garbage. The Seared Tuna was melt in your mouth, the regular tuna excellent. The shrimp had little dabs of horse raddish on them…. Mmmmm. Also, they let us have anything from the hot menu, but it was a bit slow coming out so we only had the dumplings. Then, the dumpling machine broke, but the Pork Dumplings we had before that happened were so good. I love eating food in a Tapas style like that. Not as good as Dim Sum but fun. There was an organic chicken thingee served sushi style that I liked and another sate chicken type roll but that only came ’round once, at the beginning. Ohh, I should mention that the sea weed salad was BLECHH. My lunch companion got a hot green tea which was served in a diffuser pot. Looked great. All in all, we probably ate $80.00 worth of food and loved each bite. Except for the sea weed salad. They had 2 types of deserts too, a chocolate mouse and a white panacotta but I didn’t try those. Zach, thanks so much! Made my week.
And finally Wayne, who sent us his entire story of what happened- and as promised in the comments brought along Mamacita our unemployed Happy Hour Correspondent (I swear on my life the winners were drawn randomly)
This morning I got into work and was greeted with an email: “CONGRATS! You have won a free lunch at Yushi” OK, hold on. You’re trying to tell me I’m going to eat sushi (my favorite food) on the Yushi account (free… another favorite) with Mamacita (my favorite ML lady). AND you’re telling me it’s all I want, anything I want?!?!?! AND I CAN DRINK FREE TOO?!?!?!
DAMN YOU CRUEL BLOGMASTER!!! Why must you trifle with me!!! What? It’s all true? Well OK then…
My esteemed guest Mamacita (who thankfully accepted my invitation) & I arrived at Yushi early and met the chief Yushi-man Luke, & some of his staff. These two Midtown Lunchers aren’t dummies — we follow directions to the letter. When you’re gonna eat fish until you collapse twitching and foaming from mercury poisoning, you better be prompt.
There looked to be about 15 people participating in the tasting besides ourselves. Aside from Luke, no one knew who we were. (whew)
As anyone who has visited Yushi knows, the place exudes urban chic. It’s like a hip hairstyling salon in there. A lot of stainless steel, leather and louvers. Just past the fridges and the registers is the seating area. And glistening in the center of it is THE CONVEYOR BELT. Laden with goodies, it silently revolves…beckoning you to be seated and start grabbing… and spending.
The conveyor belt is like Sakae’s and East’s and fits right in to the layout and design of the place, as if it was there all along — very tastefully done. The conveyor counter is attractive & efficient. Decent amount of space and everything you need (except forks for any non-chopstick users.) The length of the conveyor is a little on the small side compared to others. One drawback to the Yushi conveyor is that unlike other places, the kitchen staff does not have direct access to it. They are not in the middle of the rotating belt and the conveyor does not run into the kitchen. This might be a problem, as the staff has to observe it and restock it by shuttling food over from the kitchen. It was an effort for them to keep it stocked for our little tasting and we only half-filled the seats… but then again, everything was GLORIOUSLY FREE! It will probably be easier with the paying folks. On the plus side, they can probably seat more people at the belt than if they had tables there. My guess is that conveyor will prove to be a good customer draw albeit high-maintenance for the restaurant staff.
If you do not want to feel heinous jealousy, this is the place to stop reading. What follows is a tale of gluttony, violence and orifice stuffing on an epic scale. Yes… it was time to eat lunch with Mamacita.
For the most part, the food on the belt is a twist on the stuff they sell for takeout. Pricey and small, but inventive, fresh and high quality. Some of it a little bland unless sauced. The self-serve wasabi was a little thin & mild. Regarding variety- tuna, salmon & cooked shrimp are the staples. The sauces & garnishes liven things up quite a bit. Dill added to a salmon roll was subtle and made the dish more alive. Also tasty was the spicy tuna maki.
The California roll contained actual crab and a spicy dressing with chives — it was outstanding and the favorite dish du jour.
Seared Salmon and Seared Tuna — same exact dish done with two different fish — were great in terms of freshness & quality but had an onion-based chutney sauce whose funky aftertaste lingered somewhat. If Mamacita was planning to make out heavily with me after lunch, this might interfere.
The tuna sushi with a nori strip, and salmon sashimi were also very fresh but a little bland. There was a little wasabi on the tuna but being “lite” wasabi it didn’t liven things up like it should have. Tuna slices were a little skimpy, but the salmon was good-sized.
The seared beef nigiri sounded promising but wasn’t available. I wanted to yell FUGU ME! By sadly, no fugu either. You can also order hot food off the menu. (No directions to hospital on the back of the menu, I checked).
The shrimp tempura we chose came with two sauces, standard tempura sauce & duck. It was hot & crispy with a greaseless batter – the fry cook brought his â€˜A’ game. The shrimp & chive dumplings we requested never materialized due to technical difficulties.
Edamame, salads and desserts spin around too. Having tried them & the soup on previous visits, they are all high quality. The Firecracker soup in particular is especially good. We tried a chocolate mousse off the belt. Standard flavor with a berry & mint garnish. There were others mentioned (green tea crÃ¨me brulee sounds good) but we didn’t see them.
Pricing remains on the high side. Yushi uses the â€˜color system’ to price the dishes on the belt — the emblems on the plates correspond to the cost on the menu. $2.25 – $5.75. Fortunately for the Midtown Lunch crowd, the tastiest plates are the cheaper ones… but you’re still going to be struggling to get out for under $10, or even $20 if you try to achieve even partial fullness.
In contrast to the limited variety of fish used in the food, the drinks menu is huge and covers all four food groups — beer, wine, sake and tini. Only one cold sake, the Karoshi, was available, and it was pretty good (not sure on the price) — It came in this big-ass flask, a great deal if it was $4 like the menu says.I think Mamacita tried to get me drunk to lower my inhibitions — she kept ordering those bad boys.
The staff was very pleasant if a bit harried. Based on their looks I suspect Yushi becomes a porno set when the last luncher clears out.
Zach’s admirable high ethical standard did him a big disservice on this one. By the time we waddled away from the belt, the plates were piled high and the bottles were dry. We of course left a nice tip for the hardworking staff and I swear Mamacita slipped several of them her number on the way out. I think we made Zach proud by gorging at the trough of Yushi without causing too much of a scene.
If I had to sum it up, I would say that eating at Yushi is like getting laid with an Amway spokesmodel. Looks good… feels good…. tastes good….. sounds great! You keep going back for more and more and more… Then, afterwords, you feel a little empty and your wallet hurts. But damn, you just know you’re gonna be back. -Wayne
Like I said, I wonder what you would have thought if they handed you a bill at the end! The Yushi guy admitted to me that they will probably never win the Midtown Lunch price battle, but I admire them for at least including a few real Midtown Lunchers in their “focus group” in an attempt to make it a little more ML friendly. From the looks of the menu there is no way you are getting out of there for under $10, but at least it sounds tastier than Sakae.
Yushi opens their conveyor belt to the public at Noon on Monday.
Yushi, 245 Park Ave. (But it’s actually on 47th St. btw. Park+Lex), 212-687-1900