Japan-based Kura Revolving Sushi Bar opens in Columbus at Polaris

Never let it be said that a guy hurtling toward 60 — me — can’t adapt to change.

During our first visit last week to Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, I asked the (human) server which screen, button, conveyor belt or robot I needed to interface with to get a refill of Diet Coke. serving dish

Japan-based Kura Revolving Sushi Bar opens in Columbus at Polaris

“Umm, you can tell me if you want,” he said.

Kura opened on Jan. 13 in Polaris, the first Ohio restaurant for the Japanese chain that specializes in conveyor-belt sushi, which apparently is a big enough thing that it has its own Wikipedia entry. (Conveyor-belt sushi debuted in 1958, a year after Sputnik, in Osaka.) Kura Sushi has more than 600 restaurants in Japan, Taiwan and 17 U.S. states.

Your food comes in one of three ways at Kura Sushi. Four, if you count humans, who are plentiful and attentive and frequently making sure you can cope with what’s actually a pretty easy system to navigate.

Every table for two or more people sits at a right angle to conveyor belts that snake out of the kitchen, past every diner and back. Single seats face the conveyor belts directly. They form a never-ending loop of sushi, nigiri and other items that roll by your table on small plates that sit inside a clear plastic cloche.

(If you're picturing a loud, chaotic, self-serve cafeteria, don't. Seats have high backs that offer more privacy than other restaurants. You won't see any hands grabbing at your Hokkaido scallops.)

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When you see something tempting, you grab the plate and the cloche pops open and you’re good to go. At least it’s supposed to pop open. In two visits, I’ve not quite grasped the technique that was described to me as a pinch and pull; several times I had to pry the lid up with one hand while trying to hold back oncoming sushi plates with the other.

Other menu items, including hot dishes such as tempura or ramen, can be ordered from a touchscreen, tableside menu. They arrive via a second, faster “express belt” above the main line; Kura calls it the sushi highway.

You can also use the touchscreen menu to order drinks or anything from the menu that you don’t see snaking by. Drinks are brought to you by a robot that plays a cheerfully odd, oddly cheerful instrumental version of “Jack and Diane.”

My partner, JJ, and I weren’t expecting much, frankly. When you’re going to a restaurant known as “that place with conveyor belts and robots,” it doesn’t seem as if food will be the star of the show.

Kura’s food, though, is quite good. Between visits last Wednesday and Thursday, we ordered 21 different items (they’re small plates!) and enjoyed them all. That plastic cloche that covers food on the conveyor belt is actually the patented, trademarked Mr. Fresh Ventilated Sushi Lid, which includes technology that monitors how long an item has been circulating.

Raw items — we tried salmon toro, yellowtail, sea urchin and a tuna dish — were fresh and soft and mild. It seemed Kura’s nigiri was sliced thinner than other restaurants; we chalked it up to pricing all conveyor-belt plates at $3.40. I didn’t mind and thought it made the bite more balanced, though JJ prefers a thicker slice of fish.

Kura offers the usual sushi-restaurant items such as Rainbow and Caterpillar rolls, but a few things I never tried before stood out. The Seared Eel with Miso Cream Cheese was a contrast of charred, creamy and seafood flavors. The Tuna Yukhoe was a delicious combination of chopped raw tuna and a bit of boiled egg yolk with rice, Japanese barbecue sauce and nori.

A more subtle offering is the Dashi Olive Sweet Shrimp; a tiny squeeze of lemon ties its delicate flavors together.

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And don’t skip dessert. We ordered the Hokkaido Milk Creamy Tart and the Warabamochi, which is soft bits of sweet, jellylike mochi covered in a dry soybean powder that tastes like peanut butter.

How do you pay your tab at a restaurant where food is delivered by conveyor belts and robots? That’s automated, too.

Plates picked off the conveyor belt are all priced at $3.40 and are all the same size. When you finish each dish, you slide the plate into a tableside slot that keeps a tally. Pricier items, drinks and anything else you order by touchscreen is calculated as well.

You can pay through the monitor or face-to-face.

Japan-based Kura Revolving Sushi Bar opens in Columbus at Polaris

Food Serving Tray Open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays