An expert guide to the menu

First bite: Our reviewer shares some thoughts on a new restaurant after an informal visit.

I didn’t see the robot until we finished sushi plate number 13. I know this because I had just watched Kura’s touch screen, which calculated each empty plate after inserted into the slot at the end of our table.

We were trying to reach 15, driven by the promise that our The Muten-Maru anime guide would pull out a prize from the vending machine once we provided enough plates to the machine. But after more than a dozen salmon rolls and flame-seared eel strips with miso cream cheese, we were starting to slow down.

A robot appeared. He was carrying an iced green tea and two glasses of water to another stand. It was bright yellow and shaped like a cartoon Minion with two shelves in the front holding the drinks and a computer screen in the back displaying stylized photos of various dishes.

Spirits lifted by the silly sight, I controlled my urge to chase the robot and instead grabbed plate number 14 – fresh crab nigiri – from the conveyor belt. You must move quickly to Kura.

What is the Kura Rotating Sushi Bar?

Kura is a popular Japanese chain that has been around since the 70s and is growing rapidly throughout the Phoenix area. The chain opened its first Arizona location in the Camelback Colonnade just before Christmas in 2021. A week later, a second location opened on Dobson Road and Chandler Boulevard in Chandler.

Long waits at the Phoenix location have been almost constant since opening. There were so many people in front of me the first time I tried to go to dinner that I was diverted. I had better luck on my second attempt at lunch.

Upon entering, Kura looks like a cross between an Ikea cafeteria and a Japanese video game. People are crammed into small booths that buzz with the beeps and bops of the plate counter, the order screen and mini sushi plates scrolling on two levels of conveyor belts that wind in front of each table. Drinks are delivered by robot – except when the robot malfunctions, as was the case until the end of our visit. Servers are on standby to facilitate the process.

How does a conveyor belt sushi restaurant work?

Unlike other revolving sushi bars which typically feature a communal layout where everyone sits next to each other facing the conveyor belt, Kura’s design is more isolationist. Families are locked in high-walled booths and can pick and choose dishes from the lower conveyor belt as they pass, or wait for touch orders to be delivered via the upper conveyor.

Empty plates are dropped into a slot at the end of the table, and once you’ve finished five plates, a cartoon appears on the touchscreen. Muten-Maru travels to Las Vegas and is confronted by an evil clown called Charlie Chublin and an evil painter called Marcel Duchomp. Charlie Chublin drowns Muten-Maru in a torrent of colorful candies and crackers. Guests are informed that the only way to help him is to eat more sushi. A prize is promised to those who will finish 15 plates.

The game aspect encourages you to order more than you probably need. It’s definitely made for me.

What’s on the menu at Kura?

Our server explained that each plate of sushi is $3.10 and we can order them from the touch screen or just grab Mr. Fresh plastic containers as they passed our table on the lower level of the conveyor belt.

Anything ordered from the touchscreen menu of sushi, appetizers, ramen, udon soups and traditional Japanese desserts whizzed up to the table on the upper level of the conveyor belt. I quickly learned that if you don’t grab the dishes you ordered after a few seconds, they will start shaking back and forth on the belt as if anxious.

As for the sushi, there were classic tuna and scallop nigiri, goofy buns topped with all sorts of fried toppings, and creative bites like Yukhoe salmon with a boiled egg yolk nestled in seaweed. The sushi is what you would expect from a conveyor belt restaurant. Some nigiri like salmon, fresh crab and sweet shrimp were better than others.

I suggest leaning hard on soups and desserts. I was pleasantly surprised by all three dishes I ordered from the kitchen, including a comforting bowl of beef udon soup that had a slightly sweet broth, plump wheat noodles, and tender, lightly seared beef shreds.

For dessert, I ordered freshly fried sesame balls filled with red beans and the tour de force from the dessert menu – a sweet fish-shaped pancake taiyaki filled with vanilla ice cream and more comforting red beans. .

And yes, we made it to 15 plates. I slipped our last dish into the slot and waited impatiently my price. After another anime segment where Muten-Maru is recharged by a sushi roll that looks like the Pokemon ball, the quarter machine spat out a plastic green egg. The bulb was virtually impenetrable, so my table mate and I worked together to lift it opened with a pair of chopsticks. Inside we found a glasses cleaning cloth emblazoned with a Tetris logo. (In February, they switch to Hello Kitty.)

I laughed, partly because my reward was so useless, but also because I was having a really good time. Kura may not be the most upscale sushi experience in the world, but it’s a lot of fun.

Kura Revolving Sushi Bar

Or: 1949 E. Camelback Road, Suite 164, Phoenix.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Price: Sushi plates are $3.10; small bites $3.10 to $6.20; soups and bento boxes $3.80 to $8; desserts $3.10 to $4.80.

Details: 520-479-2888,

Contact journalist Andi Berlin on [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook @andiberlin, Instagram @andiberlin or Twitter @andiberlin.

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