I had a chance to try out a new concept at a restaurant that opened recently in Doraville called Kula Sushi.
Kula is a revolving sushi bar that is all the rage in Japan. Guests are seated at either a counter or a booth next to a two-tiered conveyor belt. The bottom belt has a continually rotating selection of sushi dishes you can pick up. The upper belt delivers special orders directly to your table from the kitchen. It’s a great experience and a lot of fun to wait with some anticipation for various dishes to pass by, and to have your own special dish delivered to you remote control style.
The location I was at seats under 100 people, It was full at lunchtime when we walked in. Still, we only had to wait a couple of minutes for a “first available” seat which happened to be at the counter.They have a large kitchen staff on display behind a glass-walled partition, busily refilling plates on the conveyor belt and making specialty dishes to order. Thefront of the house staff is pretty light due to layers of automation in the restaurant.
- When you walk in there is a touchpad where you can enter your name, guest count, and preference for a counter or a booth seat. You are given a number and an approximate weight time. Once you have done that you simply wait for your number to be called.
- After being seated a server takes drink orders (The iced green tea is exceptional!) and explains the procedure of ordering to you if it is your first time.
- The menu consist of another iPad style touchpad that lists all the sushi choices available, including the ones that are rotating on the conveyor belt in front of you and specialty dishes made to order in the kitchen.
- As the individual plates pass by in their protective plastic pods, you can reach over and simply put a plate and begin eating. After you have finished there is a slot to drop the plates into that automatically count them and keep track of how much sushi you have had to enjoy.
- There is a bonus to racking up the plates, as well. for every five plates a video comes up on the menu tablet and tells the story of a little character fighting super villains. More plates increases his chances of winning. Once you reach 15 plates a dispenser over the conveyor belts releases a little red ball with a gimmicky toy surprise inside.
- If you do not want to wait for a particular dish to come by, or if you see something on the specialty menu that you’re dying to have, you simply tap the item’s picture on the screen. Within just a couple of minutes the upper conveyor belt sends your dish zipping right to your table.
- When you are finished, tap another button and it notifies your server that you are ready to have your check picked up.
All the dishes that we had were incredibly fresh and brightly flavored, and fairly simple. Not the elaborate rolls with piles of ginger and wasabi. Soup, noodles, and specialty dishes are available but everything is small plate sized and you won’t fill up on any one thing, giving you the chance to sample a broad variety of sushi.
Kula is an international chain owned by the Japanese based Kuna Corporation, growing in popularity, and with outlets in California, Texas, and now Georgia they have marched their concept literally from coast to coast. They emphasize freshness, organic products, and sustainability in their practices and operations. They first established the revolving sushi concept in Japan back in the mid-80s.
As cool and automated as the concept is, to me it felt like a throwback to the 50s when food and automation was all the rage. But it’s a great deal of fun to sit there with friends and simply pluck a plate of delicious, glistening sushi from a passing belt without interrupting conversation. At an average $2.25 a plate the impulse to experiment is easy and affordable. And nothing beats the excitement you feel when a small “ding” announces that your special plate is on its way and arrives in front of you like a bullet train on the conveyor belt.
Probably not for groups of more than about six people, but definitely a fun and unique way to have sushi here in the Atlanta area. Looking forward to going back again with friends.