If you were to ask me for my favorite food, for the last 20 years the answer would (and continues to) be sushi. I find its freshness, lightness, diversity of forms, and general clean yet present flavors to be heavenly. The bites are small which lets me try a lot of different varieties, and you get to try different creative combinations making it basically the Lego of food. And Seattle is lucky to have (in my experience) one of the best, if not the best, sushi restaurants on the West Coast — Nishino.
But Nishino isn’t exactly cheap, I can’t eat there all the time. I also have children and I definitely can’t afford to have them eat there all the time. I thought teaching them to love sushi was a good idea, but it’s come with some cons as well — namely, they want to eat sushi all the time. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort figuring out how to go out to eat with my kids and still eat decent food (and not yucky “kid-friendly” food). I’ve documented that in this post about eating out with your kids. One key secrets of taking kids out to eat sushi is finding a restaurant with a conveyor belt. In Japan, this is called Kaiten Sushi. At some point, some restaurateur who wants to appeal to parents will realize that you can put other kinds of food on a conveyor belt, not just sushi. But that day has yet to come and that’s not the focus of today’s discussion.
Seattle is lucky to have three different establishments specializing in conveyor belt sushi, some with multiple locations. They are Sushi Land, Blue C Sushi, and Genki Sushi. Sushi Land, also called Marinepolis Sushi Land (or even Marine Polis Sushi Land) is a pacific northwest chain with locations in Portland and all around Seattle and its suburbs. Blue C Sushi is a local endeavor and has five locations around Seattle and Bellevue. And finally, Genki Sushi is a chain of restaurants from Hawaii with their new Seattle location as their first outpost on the mainland.
Conveyor belt sushi is a staple in Japan and I’m glad it’s finally gotten to the states. Given that one of my standard activities with the kids is to take them out for lunch and the latest kids movie, we have sampled each of the local establishments multiple times. In truth, I never expected to write about any of them here on Tastingmenu. Mainly because I try to write only about restaurants that I love or really like. Chain sushi delivered in mass quantities typically doesn’t get there. But in the case of Genki Sushi, at least for me, it has.
I’m not claiming that Genki Sushi is delivering the best sushi of all time or even authentic sushi. In fact, it’s a relatively recent development (and a feedback loop from America) that sushi choices like the Spicy Tuna roll can even be found in a handful of sushi establishments in Tokyo. The complicated makis, the alternative wrappers, the fancy combinations appear to be all non-traditional innovation in the sushi arena. And that’s fine. I like tradition, and I also like innovation. Sometimes separately, and sometimes together. Genki is squarely in the innovation camp. In fact, many of their items are some type of riff on the classic spicy tuna, or incorporate non-traditional ingredients like Thai sweet chili sauce. There’s also a nod to their Hawaiian roots with spam ngiri (a Hawaiian staple – though typically in musubi form – which is pretty good in my opinion). Mainly though, Genki Sushi is enjoyable because the food is fresh, the ratios in terms of fish to rice are good, the variety is creative and especially flavorful, and they are not expensive. (Blue C is pretty pricey in my experience relative to both Sushi Land and Genki Sushi).
I used to go to conveyor belt sushi cause I needed to economize as my kids wanted sushi almost every week. And while it’s no Nishino (as almost nothing is), we now go to Genki Sushi periodically, not because we have to, but because we want to. I can’t argue with my desire to return which is ultimately what guides my decisions on which restaurants to write about.
For the address of this restaurant as well as all our Seattle writeups and photo galleries check out our Seattle restaurant guide on Tastingmenu.