Restaurant Review: KiKu Revolving Sushi

Story and photos by Mark Sterling-Ogle, Aug. 28, 2014.

One might think mum’s the word when it comes to Kiku Revolving Sushi on the borders of Glendale and Peoria, but don’t let the location of this hidden blossom fool you.

Kiku, which translates to chrysanthemum, is billed as the No. 1 revolving sushi restaurant in the West Valley.

Floor-to-ceiling windows, with rice paper screens, filter the natural sunlight that streams in to dining room at lunchtime. In the evening the restaurant’s traditional lanterns illuminate with a soft glow.

Revolving sushi originated in Japan, where it’s known as Kaiten Sushi. Plates of sushi are covered with a clear lid and placed on a conveyor belt that serpentines through the restaurant, slowly making its way past every table and counter seat.

Customers simply pick their selections from a steady stream of fresh sushi (and other food and drinks) moving throughout the restaurant on the nonstop “train.”

BeltThe color of the plate determines the price – ranging from $1 to $5 – and the final bill is calculated by counting the number, and color, of plates consumed.

Small placards precede each roll with descriptions, but it is easy to get distracted and you’ll have to wait a full rotation to see it again!On my most recent visit, I discovered the “guide to the belt” insert in the menu for reference (smart move on their part).

There are more than two-dozen specialty rolls touted on the menu. You may order these à la carte in full roll ($12.99) or half roll ($6.99) portions (or take your chances watching for them plated on the belt in four piece servings).

The dutiful wait staff never let your drink sit empty and offer wasabi to anyone who enjoys it. If you have any questions about what you’ve selected, they will either have the answer or one of the more knowledgeable sushi chefs will be happy to take the time to come out and helpfully inform.

The circling belt offers choices that are ever varying; you never know what you might see coming down the line. On more than one occasion I took a chance on the Monkey Bites (red plate, $1.50), mushroom caps stuffed with spicy crab and deep-fried. The fried items on the conveyor are tasty, but better when fresh. Such is the case with the appetizer of soft shell crab tempura ($4.99, available only when ordered off the menu), which I utterly enjoyed when it arrived fresh out of the oil and golden brown.

For some sushi aficionados the portion size offered on this culinary carousel may be disappointing, but the price won’t be. The nigiri style sushi, which is thinly, sliced fish atop flavored rice, is usually placed on a yellow plate (two pieces, $2). Common fish, such as Red Snapper, Salmon, Tuna and Yellowtail may be ordered off the menu sashimi style (approximately 3 ounces, $4.99), without rice.

There are several entrée items on the printed menu for anyone not into consuming raw or undercooked seafood: beef or chicken teriyaki ($10.99; $9.99), Korean barbecue beef or spicy Korean barbecue pork ($10.99; $9.99).

Stir fried noodles are made to order with freshly woked onions, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli and cabbage, and guests have their choice of adding beef or shrimp ($8.99), chicken ($7.99) or a vegetarian option ($6.99).

For those wishing to imbibe, Kiku has a limited beer, wine and sake list which includes some higher end, chilled sake. If you have never tried cold sake, I encourage you to do so with an open mind. My favorite style is Nigori, or unfiltered, providing a creamy mouth feel and an opulent mother-of-pearl appearance. The brand served at Kiku is Sayuri ($9.99).

There is temptation to save room for dessert right from the very start. On any given day or night a wide assortment of cakes, pies, mousses, fruit and fancy pastries, break up the constant flow of sushi and rolls. This is where the smaller portions can really get the best of you, enticing you into just a few more bites.

If you can resist the desserts off the belt, there is a deliciously unique menu option that will satisfy any sweet tooth. Mochi ice cream (two flavors, $3.99) is a Japanese confection made from pounded sticky rice with an ice cream filling and it is available in chocolate, green tea, mango, red bean, strawberry and vanilla.

Whether I have a moment to make a whistle stop for a grab and go, or have the time to enjoy the passing morsels, I'll be sure to catch this train again and again.

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