On a visit to Los Angeles during the New Year’s holiday, I made my way to Little Tokyo in Downtown L.A. and spend a great hour at Kula, a revolving sushi bar. I spent a not-so-great hour waiting outside to get into the restaurant, which highlights just how popular the place is.
What’s a revolving sushi bar? Plates of individual portions glide in front of diners on a conveyer belt. Think of a supermarket checkout. Or an assembly line. Like Lucy and Ethel, only not as madcap (although, a diner next to my table grabbed his plate so clumsily, he dropped it down his friend’s back). The price is flat: $2 per plate, and the portions’ sizes correspond with the price of the ingredients – so if you’d like that pricey Bluefin tuna (an un-PC but very delicious choice), you’ll get just one piece, whereas the crispy fried chicken crowds the tiny plate. Desserts and appetizers also slide by – though be wary, as the dessert choices are an acquired taste – the daifuku mochi dumpling left my dinner companion spitting in his plate because he was uncomfortable with the doughy texture, while the warabimochi’s grey gelatinous appearance scared us off entirely.
The quality of the sushi is excellent and all the food was fresh. The gimmick of having the food on a conveyer belt ended up being a practical bonus for us because we were able to eat immediately, and not have to wait for our food to be prepared. This was especially important as we waiting for almost an hour outside to be seated. Kula is a popular destination in Little Tokyo, and even though it was 4:00pm we were still at the end of a very long line.
The only issue with a restaurant like Kula is that it’s very easy to overindulge and rack up a pricy total at the end of the meal. However, three of us were able to eat and leave the place full and bloated, with only $60 worth of damage (that’s total, including tip). There isn’t much ambience to speak of, but you get to sample a menu’s worth of food, one bite at a time. And don’t fret if you’re not quick enough to jump at that plate of salmon belly – a server is only too happy to make dishes to order if you request them.