Friday, July 25, 2008


Picture © Hot Grill

Never could I have imagined that hanging around too many times in the premises of Saint-Pancras Station (London) would leave me with a slight obsession for sushis. Thank you Simon... You might wonder what is the connexion between a train station and Japanese cuisine... and who the hell is that Simon guy. Patience my dears, the next few lines hold the secret of this sudden sushi-mania (if you wonder where the sound of rowing you're hearing right now comes from, that is me laboriously attempting to make the abysmal emptiness of my existence interesting... and at the same time, joyfully flouting any writing rule I may have learnt during my academic torture).
Where was I? Oh yeah sushis in Saint-Pancras... Well okay, there was no need to create a mystery around this, there just happens to be a sushi restaurant in the station (wrecking noise, anyone?). But but but, a highly play restaurant. Every time, I went past it, I had to stop and stare in the same way kids have their nose glued to the windows of Les Galeries Lafayette in Paris during Christmas.
The whole mise-en-scene seems to be directly taken from a sci-fi television show. Actually, don't trust my words because to be honest everything looks sci-fi when you come from the South of Brussels... From afar, it looks like a handful of men are the prisonners of hundreds of colourful flying saucers crammed in a traffic jam.
Fitted with specs and a logical mind (which I seem to be lacking of obviously), you will see that those men are cooks and the spaceships actually dishes. The kitchen of the restaurant is visible for every customers. It is surrounded by a conveyor belt where the cooks lay their creations. You are invited to sit at the belt, exactly like you would do at a bar. In front of you, there are taps of fizzy and still water (for 1.50£ you can have unlimited use of those), chop sticks (and wooden spoons for the desperately Western eaters), pickled gingers, wasabi (Japanese mustard), soy sauce and finally, the open sesame for the belt delicacies : the menu. This one is essential if you want to find your way around the 90 dishes parading in front of you. And I have to say it is quite a challenge to pick one of them (knowing exactly what is inside) and at the same time holding a sensible conversation with your meal partner(s) (to be true, I don't need a conveyor belt to be a pathetic conversationalist... oh well).
When you are finished, the waiter counts how many plates are in front of you. Each one of them has a colour matching a fixed price. It goes from 1£70 to 5£. And voil√†. Quite a fun experience for the easily amused mortal I am.
Yo Sushi restaurants are mostly to be found in the United Kingdom (around forty, note that the menu might slightly differ from a restaurant to another) although there are some in Ireland, Russia, Malaysia and the Middle East. Now I am back in Belgium, you can imagine the state of despair I am in : how the hell am I surviving yosushilessly? I really don't know but that game called Sushi-Go-Round below seems to ease the pain somehow. The principle? Prepare sushis for customers sat at a conveyor belt. Sounds familiar?

NB : Oh and "Simon". Well Simon Woodroffe, he is the founder of the Yo Sushi restaurant chain. If you are interested by this self-made man, go to his wikipedia page or watch the first season of Dragon's Dens, a show about entrepreneurs broadcasted by the BBC in 2005.

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