Sushi Rio: CBD, Sydney

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A regular lunchtime haunt of mine is this sushi train in Westfield Sydney. Sushi is always a quick lunch for the busy, but also a good talking point and somewhat exciting to those new to the concept of sushi trains. This place is extremely popular, and I’d expect to be taking a number and waiting if you arrive any time between 12:30 and 1:30 on weekdays.

For those who are unfamiliar, sushi trains used to have different coloured plastic plates, ranging from the cheap, common dishes on one colour plate to the fancier, pricier bites on the other end of the spectrum. Often the stuff you liked was more expensive and the cheaper options were plain. Like other establishments, Sushi Rio long since abandoned that system and charges a flat rate of $3.50 for sushi plates ($3 after 5pm) and of $4 sashimi plates (on fancier ceramic!).

If you can’t handle that much sushi, or need something warm to break it up, there are also cooked goods such as croquettes and takoyaki, or you can order from the ala carte menu.

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A polite “いらっしゃいませ!” [Irreshaimase welcome!] is shouted by all the staff when you’re shown to a seat. Customers seated on a long bench hosting the conveyor belt and the sushi chefs prepare food in the middle, so you get to watch them make the sushi as you eat. You’re free to take off anything on the belt that tickles your fancy, but if you’re impatient to find your dish of choice you can always ask someone to take your order down.

For me, there are certain items I will always get. The egg omelette, whenever I want something plain. An udon soup whenever it’s cold. The grilled cheese tuna roll (which before they re-did the menu, we knew as Special Number 2). But a dish that’s always fun to eat is the Salmon Tobiko. You almost always have to order this one as they’ll never put it on the conveyor belt. Rice is embraced by two pieces of raw salmon and covered by enough tobiko, or flying fish roe, to send your mouth into excitement as you pop those babies with every chew.

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Salmon Tobiko

Now, I have to give a shout out to a regular sushi chef there. He noticed me taking this photo as he passed me the second thing I ordered, and complimented my camera. Then, he told me he would make his signature dish complimentary just so I could take a nice photo. Now this guy has always generated a good rapport with regulars and always helped out new customers in trying various things, but this was awesome. I got to try something simply out of the generosity of this chef.

I watched this guy as he carefully made his dish. Which, by the way, isn’t even on the menu so I couldn’t possibly tell you the name of his dish! Finally after the last few finishing touches he offered it to me, and he didn’t disappoint.

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It’s too pretty to eat!

Fatty salmon over a bed of onions and radish, with a soy sauce – vinegar combo poured over and topped with spring onions, more roe and his “secret ingredient”. When I asked about it was, he claimed his friend makes this ingredient in Japan – hence why he’s the only one who can make it in Sydney, because no one else has this ingredient – cheeky!

I say this guy is really good to his customers, and today was no different, as he offered the lady next to me a free nigiri because he’d figured out what she likes to eat. Two girls sitting directly in front of him mentioned that they liked salmon when deciding what to order and he’d prepared something similar for them. And a regular sat down nearby and the chef immediately knew what he wanted. How good is this guy!

So I was happily eating this unexpected gesture from him as my favourite was brought to me: the Spicy Grilled Salmon.

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Spicy Grilled Salmon

This dish is so popular that no matter who is on the job of making nigiri, they are almost always making batches of this. Whole 12-inch plates are filled with these balls of rice, topped with salmon, Japanese Mayo and shichimi togarashi (a seven-spice chilli powder) before it is blowtorched and finished off with spring onions and fish roe. And yet, no matter how many of these are made, they go so quickly that if you’re relying on whatever comes at you on the conveyor belt… you better hope the chef places it somewhere close to you. I once watched a guy take 4 helpings while I wistfully watched all the empty places they used to be go by.

So once again, I left this place feeling very happy with my food, and even warmer and fuzzier and the hospitality of this chef. Sushi Rio has branches on Sussex St, Westfield and in Chatswood, and they have plans to open even more branches – even a ramen place! Be sure to stop at one of their locations.

And if you’re ever in Westfield or Chatswood and see a really friendly sushi chef… ask him for his specialty.

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Domo arigatou gozaimasu, itamae-san!

Sushi Rio

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