After a visit to the gym, my fiancee and I needed to get some food. But what to eat? Just about anything sounds good after a workout, but there's something about spending an hour sweating that tends to guide you away from the world of deep-fried temptation.
We ended up at Sakura at 75th and Nieman in Shawnee. This is a typical Japanese restaurant in the sense that there are booths and tables on one side (the "steakhouse") and a sushi bar on the other.
This is an atypical Japanese restaurant in the sense that the sushi is served by train.
We actually had to wait about 10 minutes for a seat at the bar because it was packed. Even on a weeknight, Sakura is a popular place--and rightly so: the food is tasty, the atmosphere is lively, and the train provides a whole different dining experience.
It works like this: a model train runs a loop around the sizable free-standing bar. The many flatbed "cars" are loaded with plates holding nigiri, rolls, and tempura vegetables as the chefs finish making them. Most plates contained two pieces of sushi. As the train goes by, diners are welcome to grab whatever they like.
The train is a novelty at first, but it really does add fun to the experience. How so?
1. The sheer variety will let you try lots of things in small quantities. There will be some stuff that comes around...and you will have no idea what it is. Do you grab it? DO YOU? You've only got a couple seconds to make your decision. Oh, the humanity!
2. My fiancee especially liked the fact that the train and its cargo lent itself to discussion and conversation with the people surrounding us. We got to talking to a guy who remarked how many laps a lonely plate of shrimp and vegetables had made, and we almost cheered when some newcomer, oblivious to their travels, scooped them right up.
3. Say you're craving salmon. As the train approaches, you see a plate of salmon coming around the corner oh-so-deliberately. Will it make it, or will that bastard take it first? The suspense is palpable!
4. You can be that bastard.
Apparently there are lots of restaurants in other cities who serve sushi this way, but this is the only one I know of in Kansas City and we had a great time.
Our tab was $36 including soft drinks and tax (before tip). I felt the value here was good--I usually spend more and leave less full when I go out for sushi.
You are billed by the plate; when you decide you're done the server simply counts your plates (some are $1.95, some are $2.50).
Go check it out!