If you’re vegetarian or simply not a fan of raw fish, a visit to a sushi train restaurant with friends isn’t exactly going to fill you with joy. While the touch panel screens and the treat of watching your orders arrive on a conveyor belt is always entertaining, wouldn’t it be nicer if there were a few more fish-phobic options on the menu?
That’s exactly what a new chain of restaurants in Japan is offering, with vegetarian sushi, made with fresh, seasonal vegetables, and a host of other meat-based dishes, including ham and pork-topped sushi options, available for customers.
We paid a visit to Sushi Nova at their brand new location, the first of a hundred to hit Japan by 2019, and were incredibly impressed with what they had to offer.
Sushi Nova is a new type of restaurant from conveyor belt family restaurant chain Kappa Sushi, known around Japan for its cheap 108-yen (US$0.91) sushi menu. Located in Tokyo’s swanky Aoyama neighbourhood, and with a bright, minimalistic shopfront and interior, Sushi Nova is appealing to a more upmarket, business clientèle.
▼ Inside, there’s seating for 30 people, with five booths along the left and 10 individual counter seats on the right. A series of large, mirrored panels create a great sense of space.
▼ The clean, modern lines extend to the touch panel display and the two-tiered conveyor belts.
▼ While all the regular sushi favourites are available, we decide to get started on their unique vegetable options.
▼ First up, we try the assortment of five vegetables for 453 yen ($3.75).
▼ This is a gorgeous-looking platter that includes a red bell pepper, asparagus, okra, eggplant, salad and a cherry tomato.
▼ The salad gunkan-maki sushi (battleship-shaped sushi) is filled with a tasty tuna salad mixture and topped with fresh bell peppers.
▼ The eggplant is pickled, making it soft and giving it a deliciously sharp flavour.
▼ The incredibly fresh okra and asparagus are wrapped in fresh ham.
▼ While the fresh capsicum features a dollop of delicious genovese sauce.
▼The platter is absolutely delicious, and the quality of the ingredients is fantastic. It’s healthy but not exactly vegetarian so we decide to steam ahead and ask for our next order to be entirely free of meat.
▼ The staff are wonderfully helpful so when we ask for vegetable sushi with no ham they are quick to accommodate our order.
▼ Here we have yellow and red bell peppers with okra and asparagus.
▼ We also tried a platter with the pickled eggplant.
▼ The quality of the ingredients was top-notch. The okra and asparagus were firm and crunchy, as if they’d just been freshly picked.
▼ They might look like simple vegetables on rice, but the flavour of the rice vinegar really shone through, enhancing the freshness on the palette. We could have happily eaten a dozen of these!
▼ The yellow and red bell pepper sushi were also a revelation. Brushed with oil, these shone like pieces of raw fish but were actually deliciously soft, peeled slices of vegetable. The genovese sauce was full of basil favour and a perfect accompaniment to the dish.
Vegetarians, look away now because next up are a few meat morsels unique to Sushi Nova.
▼ Ham and cheese sushi with genovese sauce for 180 yen ($1.50).
▼ This was as delicious as it looks – it all melted in the mouth beautifully. Ham, cheese, basil and rice is a winning combination.
▼ Two types of pork sushi: stewed and grilled with pork miso, 180 yen ($1.50) for two pieces.
▼ Warm and moreish, these will be popular in winter.
▼ Prawn sushi, at 240 yen ($2.00), levels up in flavour with the addition of genovese sauce. They should really think about selling their sauce in bottles at the counter because it’s well-balanced and delicious.
▼ Another unusual type of sushi features a whole piece of anago (saltwater eel) for 360 yen ($3.00).
▼ Less rich and oily than unagi (freshwater eel), this was creamy and delicious. The presentation was also spectacular!
With their huge variety, reasonable prices and excellent quality, we’ll definitely be visiting Sushi Nova again. Whether you want to grab a quick bite on your own or with a group, this is the place to go for a delicious healthy meal. And the best thing about it? Vegetarians will love it too!
Sushi Nova Aoyama
Address: Ground Floor, Aoyama Oval Building, 5-52-2 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Hours: 10:00 a.m.–11:00 p.m. every day
Photos © RocketNews24