Review: Sushi Train

Sushi Train
750 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 2B6
(416) 928-9423

Sushi Train is located near the junction of Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto, and notably situated directly across the street from the faded grandeur of The Brass Rail. The storefront is unremarkable, doing no justice to the interior, which features sushi traveling along a track that services a bar and half-dozen tables. Modeled after similar restaurants that are all over Japan, it’s a fun but not inexpensive experience.

If you haven’t been to a place like this before, here’s how it works:

  • Sushi, sashimi, tempura, soups and desserts are prepared and dropped on plates, which travel a conveyor on their way to you.
  • The plates are color-coded to their price — in Sushi Train’s case, they ranged from $2.50 to $5.50.  Awesomely, there was also feature with special LOTTERY PLATES, where a red sticker meant you get the dish for free.  That means eating dinner could be like WINNING!
  • As you finish your dishes, you stack them up on your table; at the end of the meal, the staff arrives and tallies your bill based on your heap.
  • It’s that easy!

As I’ve mentioned, this is a model that is well-established overseas, and appears in at least one other Toronto restaurant I’ve been to (the chi-chi Fune, near the Entertainment District).  Sushi Train does it pretty well, providing a relaxed atmosphere where you can casually browse what you want and succumb totally to impulse eating.

Where the cracks start to show are in two places.

First, you find yourself staring at a lot of the same stuff rolling by, over and over and over again.  It’s a bit of a Mexican stand-off between you and the other patrons of the restaurant — nobody wants to spend a minimum of two-fifty to clear a space for better food, just so that someone with faster reflexes or better seating can snap it up.  So you can spend quite a while with chopsticks at the ready, waiting for someone else to flinch and give you that fatal opening to get the really good tuna sashimi.

Second, holy shit it can rack up to a lot of money.  Even if you don’t drop ten bucks on the super-reinforced miniature drums of Sapporo that are available, a reasonably filling meal at this type of restaurant can quickly run up past $50 a head, if you’re not careful.  That wouldn’t be so bad if the food itself were of even a slightly better quality than the $20 all-you-can-eat joints, but unfortunately for Sushi Train, that isn’t the case.  I will grant you that in restaurants like these, my skin-flinting, penny-pinching, wallet-clenching Scottish heritage will quickly raise its hackles; however, even the most liberal spender might find one of their eyelids twitching after only an hour or so of dining.

But with that said, what ultimately tips the balance for Sushi Train comes down to two words:

Tempura Bananas

Yep.  Go ahead and slap your forehead, wondering why you hadn’t thought of it yourself.  I’ll wait.  It’s amazing what a little tempura batter and heat, topped with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon, can do for a miniscule slice of banana — it transforms it from mere food to OBJECT OF FEMININE DESIRE. 

Seriously, guys, this dessert was so successful that it’s actually a metaphor for life. If you want to have women crave your very existence, find a way to become more like a slice of tropical fruit that’s freshly cooked in Japanese batter: Be more delicious!  Be less fatty than other nearby alternatives! Be firm on the outside but soft and yielding once your hard exterior is breached!  Garnish yourself attractively!  Soon it will be you who people are waiting to swipe off of a train.

All that said, you can definitely do worse than the Sushi Train.  The restaurant is nicely appointed (the hot water taps built into some tables are a cool touch), the staff is aggressively friendly (particularly the older man at the door yelling, “HELLO WELCOME OKAY HI” and “GOOD NIGHT THANKYOU OKAY BYE” directly at your face), and in amongst the unremarkable food are some fun surprises.

Rating: 3 deep fried bananas out of 5

  • Tina

    I would totally give Sushi Train at least 4 deep fried bananas out of 5! The food was very good, and I actually had a dream the next night about eating more of those absolutely spectacularly delicious hot stuffed mussels and the teriyaki beef rolls with pepper and enoki mushroom. Hot diggity DANG those were good! Ooh, I just ate lunch but I could do it again if they were in front of me right now. Loved the ambience, loved the food, and service was great. Admittedly, I DID NOT love the price, but considering my massive sushi consumption I like to think of that as penance and warning.

  • Mike

    Right, but for every teriyaki beef roll, there was an indentifiable bowl of booger soup or exorbitantly costly California roll. If you put a blindfold on me, I wouldn’t have thought it any better or worse than Maison Japon, and that’s saying something.

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