Quick Recipes and Easy

Sushi Buffets Anyone?

It was 25 years ago when I was first introduced to sushi, and it was like at first taste. I’ve been a sushi addict ever since. Back in 1981, I was in grade 11 living with my parents in Vancouver, Canada. That Christmas for the holidays, I went out to Irvine, California, to visit with my cousin and his wife, who were studying at UC-Irvine. I recall my cousin asking if I had ever tried sushi. I had no thought what on earth he was talking about. He clarified that it was a Japanese delicacy, whereby raw fish was perfectly prepared usually on beds of rice, and presented by sushi chefs in what could best be described as a culinary art form. Having grown up in Vancouver, which was back then more of a colonial outpost than an international cosmopolitan center, I had never heard the term sushi. But I was keen to try. So for lunch, my cousin took me to a local Irvine sushi bar (whose name I no longer recall), and I’ve been a sushi fan ever since.

I recall it being a completely new experience, although one today that everyone accepts as common place. You walk into the sushi bar, and the sushi chefs behind the bar yell out Japanese words of welcome, and it seems like the person you’re with is a regular and knows the chefs and the menu as ancient friends.

The sushi scene has much evolved in North America, and today, nearly everyone has heard of sushi and tried it, and millions have become sushi addicts like me. Of course there are people who can’t bring themselves to accepting the thought of eating raw fish, possibly out of dread of catching a disease from the un-cooked food. But this dread is unfounded, as millions of people consume sushi each year in North America, and the incidents of sushi-related food-poisoning are negligible.

Sushi has become wildly well loved in metropolitan centers with diverse cultural interests, specially those with sizeable Asian communities, and those that are well loved with Asian tourists. As such, Sushi restaurants are concentrated up and down the west coast of North America with sushi bars being simple to find on most street corners in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Vancouver. Over the past quarter century since its arrival in North America, the sushi dining experience has made a significant change in a number of key markets, which has broadened its appeal. The development of the all-you-can-eat sushi buffet has changed the way many people have come to know sushi.

Initially, the sushi dinning experience was only for the well-healed. The raw seafood ingredients that make up the basics of the sushi menu include tuna, salmon, shrimp, scallops, eel, mackerel, squid, shark-fin, abalone, and red snapper. It is imperative that the raw seafood be properly cleaned, stored and prepared, and in most markets (even on the west coast) these raw ingredients are costly when compared to other foods. Therefore, the cost of eating sushi has historically been expensive. Sushi bar eating is typically marketed in an a la carte fashion whereby the diner pays for each piece of sushi individually. Although a simple tuna roll chopped into three or four pieces might costs two or three dollars, a more extravagant serving such a piece of eel or shark-fin sushi can easily cost $4 to $6 or more, depending on the restaurant. It is simple to spend $100 for a nice sushi dinner for two at an a la carte sushi bar, and this is well out of reach for many diners.

The sushi dining business model changed over the past decade. Some clever restaurant operators saw a new opportunity to make the sushi dining experience more of a mass-market business opportunity, instead of a dining experience only for the rich. They devised a way to mass-produce sushi, purchasing ingredients in bulk, training and employing sushi chefs in high-volume sushi kitchens, where a team of 5 to 15 skilled sushi chefs work non-stop making sushi dishes in large capacity settings, where such restaurants can typically serve several hundred diners per night. It was this business model that devised the rotating conveyer belt, where the sushi plates are placed on the belt and cycled through the restaurant so diners can hand-pick their desired sushi right off the belt at their table side. But, the key marketing concept borne from this model was the single price, all-you-can-eat sushi buffet concept, where the diner pays a flat price for all the sushi he or she can consume during a single seating, typically capped at two hours by most sushi buffet restaurants. Most major cities in North America will have an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet restaurant, although they are predominantly situated on the west coast.

Outside of Japan, without a doubt, the city of Vancouver, Canada, has more sushi restaurants than any other city. Part of the explanation might be the fact that Vancouver has the largest Asian immigrant population in North America, and it is a very well loved tourist destination for tourists from all over Asia. Many of Vancouver’s immigrants seek self-employment, and open restaurants, many of which cater to the sushi market which is ever-growing. The Vancouver suburb of Richmond has a population exceeding 100,000, and the vast majority of its residents are made up of Asian immigrants that came to Canada over the past two decades. Richmond probably has the greatest density of Asian restaurants to be found anywhere outside of Asia, with every strip mall and shopping center sporting several competing eating establishments. Of course sushi is an integral part of the Richmond restaurant business, and diners can find everything from $5 lunch stops, to $20 sushi buffet dinner mega-restaurants.

Vancouver’s lower mainland (which has a population of some 2 million) is also the world’s undisputed capital for all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants. Given Vancouver’s fame for its abundance of fresh seafood due to its Pacific Ocean location, the city’s sushi restaurants have become world well-known for trying to outdo each other by offering superb quality all-you-can-eat sushi, at the best prices to be found anywhere on the planet. Quality sushi in Vancouver is priced at a fraction of what one would pay in Japan, and many Japanese tourists marvel at Vancouver’s huge selection of quality sushi restaurants. Some say Vancouver’s sushi offering meets and exceeds that found in Japan, certainly in terms of price! Very few people in Japan can afford to eat sushi other than for a special occasion. But, sushi is so affordable in Vancouver that residents and tourists alike can eat it on a regular basis, without breaking the bank! In the past decade, the price of eating sushi in Vancouver has tumbled, with sushi restaurants literally on every street corner, and the fierce competition has driven the cost of a quality all-you-can-eat sushi dinner down to the $CAD 15-20 range. An all-you-can-eat sushi dinner for two, with alcoholic drinks can easily be had for less than $CAD 50, which is half what one would pay at a North American a la carte sushi bar, and probably one quarter what one would pay for a comparable meal in Japan!

In the United States, the greatest density of all-you-can-eat sushi buffets is found not in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Miami, but in Las Vegas of all places. Las Vegas is well-known for taking what is well-known elsewhere, and relocating it to Sin City and making it larger and better. And sushi is no exception! Most of the major casino buffets offer sushi in one form or another on their daily menus. But, the city’s best all-you-can-eat sushi is found at the largest casino buffets including those at Mandalay Bay, Belagio, Paris, Aladdin, Rio and the Hilton. For non-casino buffets, try Todai, which is located in the Desert Passage Mall at Aladdin. Todai offers a superb all-you-can-eat sushi buffet, which like the casino buffets, also includes all-you-can-eat Alaska King Crab legs. As a bonus, Todai also offers many Japanese sushi delicacies not offered at the casinos, but is priced at approximately $30 US, whereas the casino buffets are slightly loss costly priced in the $20-$25 range. No matter how you slice it, or no matter how you pick it up with your chop sticks, sushi is considerably more expensive in Las Vegas than what you’d pay in Vancouver!

Of course other cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, and others have their honest share of all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants too. But probably the best sushi in the United States is found in Honolulu, Hawaii. The reason being that Hawaii is but several hours flying time away from Japan, and it is wildly well loved as a tourist destination for many Japanese. Hawaii also has a sizeable Japanese immigrant community and has ready access to exotic and fresh seafood, all the necessary ingredients for a thriving sushi restaurant culture!

Dollar for dollar, there is no place in the world that can compete with Vancouver, Canada, for offering diners superb all-you-can-eat sushi, at bargain prices! So much so, one Vancouver entrepreneur has opened a website completely devoted to the North American all-you-can-eat sushi scene. The www.SushiBuffets.com website provides a forum where all-you-can-eat sushi fans can rate and provide their own reviews of local sushi buffets.

Pleased sushi eating, and if you know of an brilliant sushi buffet, be sure to tell everyone in the SushiBuffets.com/ SushiBuffets.com forum!

I was born in 1964, and raised in Vancouver, Canada. In 1982, I graduated from St. George’s School in Vancouver. A very keen interest in commercial aviation dates back to my pre-school years. After high-school, I graduated with a BBA in Aviation Management from the University of North Dakota in 1986, and then completed an MBA from UC-Irvine in 1989. I then worked for NWT Air for six years as Manager of Corporate Plotting, based in Yellowknife, until the airline was sold in 1997. In June, 1999, I become a self-employed entrepreneur and all of my online achievements are showcased in my HenryTenby.com HenryTenby.com website.

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