Sushi Mentai @ Elit Avenue, Penang

There is one particular sushi chain in KL that is rather popular now which made me feel intrigued. Some months ago, this sushi chain finally opened their first outlet in Penang, in a place regularly featured by yours truly, in Elit Avenue. In fact, this restaurant is right next to that rather popular steamboat restaurant that I have written about.

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Yes, Sushi Mentai. When they opened for business back in July, the scene was exactly like when Burger King opened their first outlet in Penang some years ago. The queue was insane. By insane, I mean INSANE! And you know I don’t do insane queues. So, as much as I wanted to try this Sushi Mentai out, I stayed away.

So, I was driving home from work yesterday evening, and I was in a foul mood. I was in no shape to cook dinner, so I decided to look for some place to eat out instead. It was 5.30 PM, still early hours for dinner, so I drove past this shop for a peek. Miracles of miracles, no queue! It was finally time for me to put this sushi chain to the test!

Huh… seems like there’s another new restaurant doing their grand opening next door. Lao Wong Restaurant. I wonder what type of cuisine they sell. By the name, I reckon it should be soup stuff. I’ll have another place to check out in the near future.

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Back to Sushi Mentai. Well, this is a cheap sushi chain. The main attraction here is undoubtedly their sushi. The sushi here is priced at RM 1.80 or RM 2.80 per plate, depending on the type of ingredients used.

Initially, I read that in KL, this sushi chain is a place for cheap sushi rather than good quality sushi, so my main intrigue was due to the cheapness and nothing else. Apparently the sushi at those Sushi Mentai outlets in KL would be good enough if you deem those pre-packaged sushi from AEON supermarket to be good enough. I actually thought AEON’s sushi are pretty good to be honest, so I thought I could probably enjoy the food here. I thought this restaurant would be a restaurant that sells semi-decent sushi at super cheap price.

And then… a couple weeks after this Penang outlet opened for business, I began seeing some Penang food blogs featuring this restaurant. Most of them praised this restaurant to the sky. Phrases like “super fresh sushi”, “yummy sushi in classy environment”, “gourmet sushi at cheap price”, stuff like these were flowing freely in those blogs.

As a result, when I finally entered this restaurant yesterday evening, I actually entered with a certain measure of expectations.

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I was ushered to an empty table in one corner. As I walked past the sushi bar, I noticed the sushi chef preparing lots of salmon sushi. Excellent! I can have salmon sushi fresh out of counter!

Unfortunately, that expectation was misplaced. I was in the restaurant from 5.30 PM to 6.15 PM. I was there for 45 minutes, and I saw none of those salmon sushi on the conveyor belt rolling past me. In fact, I also did not see any tuna sushi, unagi sushi, or scallop sushi. Nor did I see any of that supposedly signature mentai sauce based sushi. And they did not have their list of available sushi in the menu, so I could not order off the menu. I learnt much later that they actually have a separate sushi menu where you can order a la carte, but I was not given that menu, so I didn’t know that. For all I knew, the sushi was basically a case of “You get what you see on the conveyor belt”. Basically, none of the good stuff were made available when I was there. I don’t know, maybe I was early, and they were preparing to serve the good stuff during peak dinner hours or something. Regardless, it did make my foul mood worse…

Oh, I did see something else on the conveyor belt. A rather unpleasant sight.

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Plates of improperly covered sushi, and uncovered sushi. This highlighted two things for me:

  1. People who dine here (I don’t want to generalize as Penangites) are rather uncivilized. I suspect they wanted to check the sushi out, but after checking it out, decided against having it, and did not have the decency to cover back the plates properly.
  2. The floor staff lacks attentiveness. This has got nothing to do with the restaurant being cheap or high-end. I observed at least 6 waiters on the floor. Should be plenty much for a relatively small shop. And I observed some of them standing around doing nothing. They could have, and should have paid closer attention to the conveyor belt and rectified any “defects” on there.

In hindsight, I guess I probably should not have set foot into this restaurant that I personally have been highly anticipating when I was in a foul mood. But then, it is what it is, so…

I planned to feast on cheap sushi here, but I got so discouraged, I ended up having just two plates of RM 1.80 priced sushi: tamago (egg roll) sushi and this seaweed wrapped tuna sushi.

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Wow, looks nice, doesn’t it? Except both pieces fell apart upon contact with my chopstick. Same goes to the tamago sushi. I was too disappointed to remember taking a picture of that tamago sushi. To make matters worse, I absolutely disliked the tamago sushi I got here. You know usually those egg rolls that they use to make sushi have some work done on it and they are rather sweet? I loved that sweetness. The egg roll that I got on my sushi here… was bland. Utterly tasteless. Not good…

Since I wasn’t going to feast on sushi, I ordered something from their mains menu. I ordered the Ebi Tempura Curry Don (RM 14.80).

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I wasn’t expecting anything delicious at this point of time. And I did good to reset my expectations. The ebi (shrimps) felt like those pre-packaged frozen tempura from the supermarkets. The curry felt like a watered down version of those pre-packaged Japanese curry from the supermarkets. It wasn’t horrible, it was more than edible. It wasn’t great though.

I paid more than RM 22 for the meal. Cheap for a Japanese meal of a main course and two plates of sushi, no doubt. Not exactly cheap for a meal that I would rather forget though… And to rub salt into the wound, as I was leaving, I noticed the sushi chef was still making salmon sushi. Did he just spent the entire 45 minutes making salmon sushi? So where the hell did they all went to??

I realize I have been quite harsh (maybe nasty) with my comments this time. Maybe the worst I have been. But I am so frustrated that most Penang food blogs painted this restaurant in such a wonderful light, claiming their food are of gourmet quality at a fraction of the cost. Can you see why I am disappointed? I am disappointed NOT because this restaurant serves me low quality sushi at cheap price. I am disappointed because I was misled by some Penang food blogs into thinking this restaurant, this particular outlet in Penang, serves great quality sushi at cheap price.

I don’t know who should be blamed for this. There might be a million different reasons for my disappointment. For sure my foul mood didn’t help one bit. Maybe those food blogs have been lying about this restaurant. Or maybe I came on an off day for this restaurant. Or maybe this restaurant was really good on opening month but dropped off in standards after that. I don’t know.

I guess why I am writing this post is because I really want is to put something out there that contradicts what I have read and somewhat been misled on when it comes to this restaurant. If I can be misled by reading blog reviews for this outlet done on their opening month, I reckon there must be tonnes of others who would be the same. I don’t want people to say things like “All food bloggers are liars”…

I’m not going to tell you not to come to this restaurant ever. What I’m going to tell you is that, by all means, come to Sushi Mentai Elit Avenue, after all this place is bloody cheap to have sushi. But please set the right expectations: this is a place to get cheap sushi, but it won’t be gourmet sushi level of deliciousness.

Would I come back to this restaurant again? If they are lucky enough to remain open for long, maybe I would come back again some day, when I am in a better mood and more forgiving, and with the right expectations. Or maybe I should try the Sushi Mentai outlet in Pandah Indah instead, near my home in KL. It seems like the dining experience there would be better…

34 Comments

  1. I read the long comment, and agree with it. It is a cheap sushi chain, and if I went there I wouldn’t expect the sushi to taste out of this world. Then again, the restaurant wasn’t crowded and the wait staff could have certainly done more to serve you.

    Sushi falling apart is bad. A sign of it being made sloppily. In Australia, there are quite a few of these sushi chains with sushi trains but you can never really tell the sushi is fresh until you bite into it 😐 Would you rather eat a sushi handroll or go back to Sushi Mentai to eat sushi again?

  2. I also went to eat sushi yesterday, quite disappointed with it, don’t think i will visit it again…

  3. I actually find AEON’s sushi acceptable but of course if compared to those ATAS Japanese restaurants, kenot compare. I don’t really like SK but preferred Sakae Sushi (coz of their Kid’s meal). I’ve not tried Sushi Mentai so no comment on this .

  4. Hmmm…you gave me no choice but to defend my post…and inadvertently Sushi Mentai too….wakakaka!! 😀

    First of all, let me highlight a typo error on your post…this is not a place for cheap sushi rather than good quality sushi (I think you meant this a place for cheap sushi….).

    Secondly, I think you need to re-read my post on Sushi Mentai. But, just to refresh you:
    1) I said hell no to the tuna sushi.
    2) The one I ate, the Tamago sushi had some sweetness and saltiness from the mentai…yum, yum!
    3) I did say to stick to just the sushi here and stay away from their a la carte menu.
    4) If you don’t see the salmon sushi (or another other sushi) appearing on the belt, you can place the order with the servers (check my post and you’ll see that there’s a separate menu for the sushi with code nos). Why your Penang outlet got no menu one?
    5) Unlike your Penang foodie blogs, I didn’t say that this was gourmet, super fresh or good quality sushi. I mean, let’s be realistic…at those prices?
    6) I find Aeon’s sushi rice also falls apart and their topping is even less than Sushi Mentai’s (and I think Sushi King is the worst). I did say that if you can accept Aeon’s sushi, then you can certainly accept this one. If I had said that Aeon’s sushi is comparable, I’m going to say (now) that Sushi Mentai is even better. I was just there yesterday before 6pm (still had to queue for a seat), there were lots of sushi choices on the belt and I managed to fill my tummy with cheap and semi-decent sushi for about RM25 a person. At such prices, and if they can maintain their standards, I think they’ll be here for the long haul.

    Again, I reiterate that this is a cheap sushi chain, so you can’t set your expectations too high. As for the improperly covered sushi, sometimes the covers get knocked over when the patrons are too aggressive in getting their sushi plates. Again, I come back to the point of cheap sushi (or sometimes even higher end sushi chains), some (not all) people just don’t have the etiquette (chances of bumping into more of these kind of people is higher, of course, in cheap sushi chains). I’ve seen people taking sushi plates and leaving the covers on the conveyor belt or even taking a plate and then putting it back on the belt. If we’re unlucky when we’re dining, we bump into these kind of people. Also, sometimes, you can spot an ‘unwanted’ guest too (a fly or two), so I just make sure I take those plates that are fully covered.

    I think your foul mood and high expectations ruined your visit before it even began. And I don’t think you can judge the sushi chain only after having just two sushi plates. Go and try again (when you’re in a better mood) at another Sushi Mentai outlet….seriously..!! 😀

    • Walao, such a long comment! I think I will read and re-read my post tonight when I get back home to see if I implicated you in anyway and rectify as necessary. In case you have not noticed, I was actually trying to implicate those Penang based blogs that praised this PENANG OUTLET to the skies. Your blog post is good, when I read your post, I kept my expectations in check, I was expecting “not great” sushi, it was those blogs that featured this Penang outlet that did me in and gave me unrealistic expectation. Of course my foul mood didn’t help either… 🙁

      Actually I’m not saying all Sushi Mentai outlets are crap. My post is specifically on this specific outlet that I went to. You see here: http://www.realgunner.com/2014/11/lazy-man-doing-lazy-stuff.html … these are the kind of sushi that I get from AEON Penang. I can swear that they don’t fall apart and are better than the ones I had in this restaurant. Maybe the sushi you get from AEON Maluri or something are worse, I don’t know. Seems like both Sushi Mentai and AEON have differing quality of sushi at different outlets.

      And ah… the sushi that you had, I saw none of them floating around, so I could not get them. I was not given a separate sushi menu. I probably should’ve asked for it, but I didn’t. Yeah it was probably me being in foul mood. No, actually, if they have a separate menu for sushi, why won’t they just give it to me in the first place?

      And ah… you see my last paragraph, I basically agree with your suggestion what: “…maybe I would come back again some day, when I am in a better mood and more forgiving. Or maybe I should try the Sushi Mentai outlet that Eat What, Eat Where went to, the one in Pandah Indah, near my home in KL. Maybe it would be different there…

      • Sorry for my previous long rant. You kept referencing my blog on this place in your post that I felt you were implying that I gave you an impression as to how good this sushi place is and it wasn’t. Thanks for re-reading my post and making some small rectifications in your post.

        For me…1) you get mentai on top of the sushi, 2) you get it lightly torched…these 2 reasons already make it much better than Aeon’s sushi but you’re also right in saying that the sushi falls apart. I agree totally that the rice here is not as compact…maybe that’s their “savings” in order to provide the sushi at such low prices (I’m always wondering how on earth they can make a profit at such prices), so I’m more tolerant of this and the sloppy presentation too and accept the sushi for what it is as long as it still tastes semi-decent (better than Aeon’s in my opinion). But if you think that Aeon’s is better, you are also entitled to that opinion as we all created differently and have different taste buds.

        Actually, in your photos, I spotted the unagi sushi (the one’s that uncovered), even the ebi sushi next to it and the tamago sushi too. Probably because you were too focused on the salmon sushi being prepared and you weren’t getting any…and the foul mood you were in, you couldn’t see and think properly and missed it on the belt. You know how everyone says that the chef must cook with love and it’ll show in the food that they prepare…like that…haha! 😀

        I know I myself is also guilty of saying negative things (sometimes even trashing) about some places when the food is not up to mark but I only do that if they truly deserved it. And I thought Sushi Mentai didn’t as I felt the quality of their sushi has to be equated to the price we pay in order for it to be judged fairly. So, I agree with Mun that you should go again when you’re in a better mood at this Penang outlet or some other outlet and order (make sure you ask for the menu) the things you want (at least 10 plates lar of the recommended ones). And if you’re still not satisfied (it’s your opinion, it’s your taste buds), you can trash the place…ok or not? 😀

        • That’s not unagi (although it looked somewhat like it in the picture), I looked closely and it was squid (or octopus?) in… some sauce. Nor could I find any mentai sushi at all. Trust me, I looked really hard.

          Haih, I hope you understand that I am not saying ALL Sushi Mentai outlets, my blog post refers to a specific location. I looked at your photos and what I saw, they really don’t look of the same quality. Maybe you need to come to Penang and visit this specific outlet and you will realize Sushi Mentai Pandan Indah is miles better (it seems) compared to the one in Penang. before you accuse me of being unfair to them.

          Most of my blame is actually directed to some of those Penang foodie blogs that covered this restaurant in a misleading light, rather than the restaurant itself. I don’t really know how to rephrase some of my sentences to be clear on this point. I’ll try to think how to edit harder tonight…

          • That must have been the octopus sushi then. Not acceptable if there’s no mentai sushi at all…they’re called Sushi Mentai after all! 😀 I think the fault lies in the fact that the same plate of sushi, with or without mentai, costs the same, so no prizes for guessing which plate diners would go for. It’s the same with the outlet here…sometimes…they tend to put out more of those plates without the mentai. When I don’t see it, I place an order for it and, like it or not, they have to give it to me. I think the Penang outlet you ate at was probably more cheapskate and tried not to put out those with mentai in order to make some savings again….and ultimately more profits. In that case, forget about this Penang outlet and try the one in Pandan Indah the next time you’re back in KL. But, do have a bit of patience coz when they replenish the sushi, they tend to make lots of one type at one time but you can always order those you don’t see. Don’t worry, the choices here are more than you can stomach! ;D

            And I see that you’ve made further edits to your post. What you’re trying to say comes across very clearly now. 😉

            • Maybe I’ll go back one of these days and request for the sushi menu, just to give them a chance. If they tell me no sushi menu, then I would really know to avoid them like a plague in the future. 🙄

  5. Not good, not good. I already gave up on places that serve sushi on conveyor belts. Now, where did all those salmon sushi go? I can imagine how frustrated you were.

    • I don’t mind conveyor belt sushi la, as long as they are at least semi-decent. Sushi King and AEON sushi are my benchmark of semi-decent. The ones I got here, are not even semi-decent 😐 .

      That’s why lah, that’s the most frustrating. I saw them making those salmon sushi when I entered, but the entire 45 minutes I was there, not a single plate was flowed onto the conveyor belt. Where did they all go?? If I was able to catch a glimpse of 1 or 2 of those “premium” ingredients sushi, then the tone of this entire blog post would be different and I would probably have a more favorable final verdict on them. 🙁

  6. I know what you mean when you said the queue was insane.. I’ve seen similar queues in sushi outlets in MidValley, crazy.. Or KimGary when it was newly opened about 10-15 years ago..Call me cheapo, I would not take anything from the conveyor belts, coz the cheap ones usually not on the belt.. Have to order from the menu baru dapat (yeah, I’m a cheapskate, I only go for egg/tuna mayo maki and California rolls).. And I don’t eat Japanese curry rice, their curry is sweet one leh..Aiya nevermind la, RM22 already masuk tummy, ok la, hehe..

    • This Sushi Mentai ah, you cannot order sushi from the menu, their menu do not have sushi. Sushi you can only pick from the belt. 🙁

        • I didn’t know they are supposed to have a separate sushi menu, so I did not ask for it. I think maybe they don’t, maybe not this outlet. Why won’t they give it to me if they have, right?

          • Because you did not ask for it? Sometimes you know the staff could be without any initiative.

            If you read this post here, it shows the photos of two menus for the sushi, one for those RM1.80 and another separate menu for the ones RM2.80. I think in order to satisfy your readers curiousity, you need to go back to Sushi Mentai there and ask for these two menus, see still got or not, ok? Thanks!

            http://feliciathor.blogspot.my/2015/07/sushi-mentai-bayan-lepas-elit-avenue.html

            • Ah… she went in July, when they just only opened for business. See all those flower bouquets at the entrance. The more I sit down and think, the more I suspect this outlet is a case of “Do good during opening when boss is around, go lax after a few weeks when boss is not around”…

              Tsk.. I don’t know, I guess I probably will go again, but not in the near future. I suspect I will first pay a visit to the outlet in Pandan Indah first when I go back to KL again..

  7. I might have to visit this place in KL to taste the food and compare the services. I am a believer that the franchise chains always have varied standards due to poor QC.
    That Colonel Sanders ayam is a good example here.

    • I suspect so. Maybe it is only this outlet in Penang that screws up. Now that I mention it, I think a great many franchises’ Penang outlets are kind of screw ups. I heard the Plan B outlet here served horrible food and disappointed most who have tried the original Plan B in Ipoh. TGIF and Chili’s too, their food quality here seems to be a bit less good compared to their KL counterparts. And who knows what else is there…

  8. Eh, how come I read differently what Eat What, Eat Where wrote? I thought she wrote that it is a place for cheap sushi, forget about quality fresh salmon sashimi sushi? Because after reading her review, I said to myself definitely cannot go there. I always walk past the Sushi Mentai branch in Sri Petaling and see many people there but I don’t dare to go in because I know it would be a waste of money. When I eat sushi, I want to eat acceptable level of sushi. Even after giving sushi king a 2nd chance, I still find the level of sushi there unacceptable. Hahaha, enough ranting here now. With you post, I will definitely never go try Sushi Mentai in Sri Petaling, ever, ever.

    • She wrote this place is for cheap sushi of comparable quality with AEON supermarket. I thought AEON’s sushi are much better.

      And I think my main grouse was not because the sushi was not fresh, my main grouse was that there was totally NO, ZERO, ZILCH of those “good” stuff, NO salmon, NO tuna, NO unagi, NO scallop sushi on the conveyor belt. I was unhappy not because these “good” stuff were not fresh, but because these “good” stuff were not even available!

  9. Mentai Sushi, i know they have one in Happy Garden that i passed by always but never go in.. hmmm, i am not fans of sushi and i don’t especially fancy this kind of sushi-on-conveyor-belt chain restaurants.. well, this is a popular restaurant and liked by many Penangites?? oopsss~~

    • I think you mean Sri Petaling although that area is near Happy Garden but it is considered Sri Petaling. Near to the Ipoh Chicken rice shop.

    • I think mostly because it is new, and it has been popular in KL areas. I was quite disappointed that so many Penang based foodie bloggers that went there praised it to the skies. Maybe they were good when they first opened 2 months ago..

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