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