Sugar Land, Texas
I love sushi and I love a little fun with my dining.
So when this unique sushi bar moved to a new shopping area near our home, I was pretty excited.
I had no clue about "revolving sushi" until my daughter filled me in. Heidi has enjoyed food on a conveyor belt, in Japan and she's also had the "Kura" experience in Austin, where she lives.
We're lucky we don't have to travel to find a Kura. There are a number of them in Texas and California... and one in Georgia. When Heidi visited Sugar Land in February, we gave it a try, arriving on a busy Sunday night.
Heidi, showed us how to check in on the electronic tablet. We could keep an eye on our progress by watching the numbers, as they lit up on the screen. We also got a warning text, to let us know we'd be seated soon.
That was helpful, in case we wanted to wander outside a bit. But we stayed inside with the crowd, standing patiently. We chuckled with a few others nearby. We agreed that we did not want to end up at the table near the door, surrounded by the waiting crowd.
Eating at the Counter?
There were table options as well as counter seating.
It was tempting to sit facing the parade of food, like these folks. But I wasn't sure we would get the full experience.
Food and Toys
I learned a little something by watching a nearby table. The kids seemed pretty delighted with the table-side contraption that offered up prizes. But I watched other tables and realized it was not just for kids.
In the past, you had to be a kid to get a toy with your food. There were no Happy Meals when I was a kid. However the Flaming Pit had a treasure box, where kids got to choose a prize, after dining with their parents. More on prizes later...
Yay! We got a corner table.
I sat with the food prep behind me and the conveyor belt beside me. I could also see some little eyes, peering at the moving food.
There were a few helpful signs, like this one.
But even with this explanation about the special serving dish, called Mr. Fresh, I was still glad to have Heidi along to keep me from make a beginner mistake, like grabbing the whole container off the belt.
It was very exciting and slightly intimidating.
You Like, You Grab
Heidi let Don and me sit by the exciting revolving belt that wound around the restaurant.
Don skillfully grabbed a plate of Soy Sake Marinated Salmon Nigiri. The lid popped up properly and he neatly placed the little $2.25-dish right on our table.
Not everything was available on the moving belt. Sake, Udon, Ramen, Tempura and desserts could all be ordered from a food screen.
A waiter initially greeted our table for any special requests.
Quick and Fresh
After our 25 minute wait, it was nice not having to wait for food. We saw what we liked and grabbed.
It was also nice to learn that Kura serves all organic foods, free of additives and MSG. I also was pleased to find out that there's a system for automatically disposing of the uneaten food plates, that for some reason don't get picked. So no worries about picking a food that's been lingering.
Eating with Pros
I was the only one at our table who has not eaten sushi in Japan. Don used to travel on business. Heidi and her husband Jamie, were engaged in Japan.
Also, Don and Heidi share an odd college experience, 30+ years apart. Both spent a period of time at University of Michigan, eating dorm food only with chopsticks. I love dining with pros.
It's hard to pass up some bright salmon and fresh tuna, when it rolls on by. We ended up eating lots of basic nigiri, but the rolls were tasty as well.
The green plates were all $2.25, which seemed like such a bargain, but it's also easy to get carried away with the fun. That's kind of how I remember cafeterias as a kid. It's so easy to grab a lot!
A Giddy Diner
I obviously loved the little box that held my food. I was pretty excited about the whole concept of this place. I also seemed to be the only one looking around and snapping pics, like a tourist.
In fact I felt like I was a tourist on a trip. We live in Fort Bend County, which is ranked the most diverse U.S. county, in many studies. When I looked around, I could easily imagine that I was actually eating a meal in Japan. None of the other diners seemed to make a fuss over the exciting vibe. No one else seemed to be "learning the ropes".
I turned around in my booth to peek at the "sushi makers" now and then. They seemed pretty laid back in the festive atmosphere.
I should have paid closer attention to observe the system for adding and removing plates from the belt. For a moment, I amused myself with a thought of the iconic I Love Lucy episode. Except I pictured Lucy, stuffing her mouth full of salmon and shrimp, instead of chocolate!
This was my first dining experience that involved a little game-like fun, at the table.
Above our table and the belt, we had our own colorful screen. There was a little animation first and then some words, encouraging us to "defeat him" by inserting more plates. Below the moving belt was the slot, where we inserted our empty green plates. Our plates became tokens to keep the story moving on the screen.
Above the animation screen, was a clear box that held the round prize holders. I was glad we had 3 people since it took 15 plates to earn a prize.
I felt like I was in Vegas when we inserted the 15th plate and the Bikurra-Pon released a red & green ball! Down the slide it came, landing in the plastic tray! Oh boy, a little stamper. It was pretty lame for over 35 dollars worth of sushi. But I didn't care. I was the kid that bought Cracker Jacks, just for the prize.
Share the Prize
What a fun food outing! It wasn't the absolute best sushi I've had, but it was the quickest and most entertaining!
Maybe next time I go, I can ride my bike.
It's close enough and that would add to the playful dining theme. I could also leave the prize behind, like one person did. I pity the families with kids, begging the parents to purchase 15 more plates for another prize! Yikes.
How to choose? When I googled Japanese Restaurant Houston, I found 150 different listings...from "Aka" to Zushi"...and many listed had numerous locations! So I got lazy and went back to a favorite spot on Hwy 6 in Sugar Land. I should have counted, because there are at least 10 different international cafes in this one strip center!
FYI- The restaurant sign and menu name do not match. Just remember the Mori part!
No Bonus Points
I'm afraid I can't steal any extra points for having Heidi in this blog post. My daughter has been in many posts before. She has also been to Mori Ichi's many times before!
Close Call With Wasabi
Now if I want to cheat with the bonus points, I'll go back in time, when I joined my mother with a group of folks from her nursing home on an outing to Mori Ichi!
This was almost 2 years ago and what a fun time! Most of our dining friends had never had sushi. Mom was the only one who could use chopsticks. And there was only one dangerous moment...when one of our dear dining fellows seemed to think the wasabi was a little pistachio sorbet!
3 bonus points for having Mom in the dining blog!
As I mentioned, this was sort of a lazy attempt at adding to the dining blog. Sometimes you don't really want to chat up a storm. But our server was very sweet and when I couldn't understand her Japanese name, she kindly told me to call her Fiona. Let's give 3 bonus points to Fiona.
If I were a real connoisseur, I would never get this ridiculous assortment of goodies. But I love these boxes! They remind me of TV dinners way back when. Remember how cool it was to have your food all separated! This was pretty darn good, though. Miso soup, salad, chicken katsu, California rolls and veggie tempura! All for $7.95!
Heidi's Healthier Pick
Heidi loves sushi! When she compliments sushi, that says a lot!
Let's just go ahead and give MORI ICHI 5 points for food! We have never been disappointed!
Authenticity and Warmth
What can I say...it's just cozy and comfortable. There are Christmas lights on the bamboo plants and there's a thatched roof over the sushi bar! I don't like TVs in restaurants and I don't really care for boxing, but I'm willing to give 2 bonus points for being able to watch a Japanese boxing match on the TV...for a little authenticity.
5 Bonus Points for Feeling Welcome!
Most diners at Mori Ichi seem to be Japanese. Of course I could be wrong. But all folks, regulars and first-timers, seem to be greeted with equal warmth. Again I'm using a 2 year old memory to give bonus points. (5 for the welcoming atmosphere) I will never forget the day our group arrived with wheelchairs and walkers and took over a large table at the center of the room. Our special group needed extra care since many were hard of hearing, had diet concerns or were just plain confused. But the servers were patient and kind. I won't even take points away for forgetting to remove the wasabi from some plates!
Mori Ichi gets 18 Points!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.