A popular mode of dining in Japan — sushi delivered to your table by a conveyor belt — is attracting Utah eaters to Ogden.
Sushi Pro, at 4337 Harrison Blvd. in Ogden, is now the only restaurant in Utah that offers what in Japan is called “kaitenzushi,” or conveyor belt sushi — also called rotating sushi or sushi train, because sometimes an actual toy train will bring an order to the table. Sushi Pro’s locomotive is a tiny white bullet train, covered in Japanese stickers (including one of a smiling piece of nigiri).
Joe Pan, who opened Sushi Pro in April, moved back to Ogden after living in Arizona and Texas. He said he wanted to open a restaurant in Ogden because he knows the community — and he said it felt like Ogden was ready for kaitenzushi.
Designing the system to his specifications took a year, Pan said, not to mention waiting for parts to arrive from China. Pan based the layout and concept on traditional kaitenzushi restaurants — though Pan had specific ideas about how he wanted to use the space, like the long white counter that winds through the dining room, facing the belt.
When diners arrive, they are shown to a seat at that counter, and given a ceramic pot of pickled ginger, a small pitcher of soy sauce, and a dish of wasabi — the trinity of sushi condiments.
The conveyor belt constantly brings plates of sushi, sashimi, nigiri and Japanese snacks past the customers. The model train rides on a track at the top of the belt, and is sent from the sushi chefs’ station when people order items off the menu.
“Most everything that’s on our menu is on the belt,” manager Veronica Estrada said. “They have little tags, so you know what is what. The only thing that won’t be on the belt are things that have to be prepared in the kitchen, and our boba drinks. But people are able to order if they don’t see something on the belt that they’re really wanting, and then it’s brought to them on the train.”
Different plates, different prices
Plates on the conveyor feature four pieces of sushi, or two pieces of nigiri. The plates are color-coded, with a sliding price scale depending on the plate’s color. The waitstaff counts up the plates, and prints the bill.
• White plates, at $2.25, include California roll, snow crab roll, crunch roll, baked mussel and mussel shooters.
• Green plates, at $2.99, feature Alaska roll, Buddha roll, Philadelphia roll, sweet potato roll and asparagus roll.
• Pink plates, at $3.59, serve Japanese candies, such as Hello Panda, Yan-Yan and Pocky.
The candies are a recent addition, Estrada said, “after some suggestions from some customers that have gone to conveyor sushi belt places in other states, saying wouldn’t it be cool to have treats for the kids.”
• Yellow plates, at $3.99, are for dragon roll, tempura shrimp roll, salmon avocado roll, and all the deep-fried rolls including the Vegas roll, Godzilla roll, Arizona roll and the C&T roll.
Also on the yellow plates, Estrada said, are two somewhat sweet nigiris that are customer favorites: The caramel shrimp and caramel salmon rolls. (The caramel salmon roll is also Estrada’s favorite, she said.)
• Red plates, at $4.99, feature the rainbow roll, imagine roll, Santa Fe roll, tiger roll, caterpillar roll, angel roll, Harrison roll, Earth roll, shimp love roll, Weber roll and spider roll.
The Weber is one of Pan’s inventions, Estrada said. It features shrimp tempura and crab sticks topped with snow crab, eel sauce and spicy mayo.
• The black plates, at $5.99, include the Sushi Pro roll, Tokyo roll, sunrise roll, sunset roll, big boy roll and the rock ‘n’ roll.
Pan also created the Sushi Pro roll, Estrada said: Snow crab, cucumber and tempura shrimp, topped with tuna and eel, and has crab sticks and scallions, topped with eel sauce and spicy mayo.
Drinks include Ramune (a carbonated soft drink brand from Japan that comes in grape, melon, peach, orange and strawberry flavors) and Ocean Bomb (a flavored sparkling water from Taiwan that’s available in white, vanilla, peach and apple flavors). They also make boba teas.
People come from all over
For the best possible experience at Sushi Pro, Estrada said, customers should land at the counter at least 40 minutes before closing time.
“If you want the experience of seeing a lot of sushi on the conveyor belt, you don’t want to come closer to closing time, because they don’t put as much on the belt,” she said. “The sushi chefs try to make sure they’re seeing how much clientele they have, and how much to put on the conveyor belt, so it’s not being discarded. So it gets a bit slower. You can always place an order, since there won’t be as much sushi.”
In the restaurant’s first four months in operation, customers have come from far beyond the Ogden area, Estrada said — because they’re curious about the experience of conveyor belt sushi.
“I’ve had people say, ‘Oh, we drove all the way from Tooele,’ or ‘We drove all the way from Green Mountain,’” she said. “We’ve had people come from West Valley, and from the Salt Lake area as well. The farthest someone told me they’d driven was like 2½ hours to get here. … We have had people come because of posts and things that they’ve seen on the Internet, and wanted to try it out.”
Sushi Pro, at 4337 Harrison Blvd., Ogden, is open: 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11:30 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; and noon to 9 p.m. Sundays. The restaurant doesn’t deliver, but it will fulfill take-out orders. There’s nothing specifically vegan on the menu, but the chefs can prepare vegan rolls on request.