The very first piece of sushi I ever had was a spicy tuna gunkan from Cold Storage. It was wrapped in plastic and kept in a large cooler, together with other similarly-wrapped sushi. I was a teenager then and the most important thing was that it was cheap and tasted alright. Not fantastic, but not that bad either.
Since then, lifestyle inflation started creeping in and I graduated to chain-store kaiten sushi, followed by large-tray sushi served in hotel buffets and then those in fancier Japanese restaurants that were actually prepared *gasp* only after you ordered.
And then I started travelling regularly to Tokyo for work, and a whole new world opened up to me — from Sushi Sei in Tsukiji, to Ajisen (no, not the ramen chain) in Tsukishima, to Kai in Todoroki — where an excellent meal of sushi, sashimi and sake could be had for not more than JPY 10,000 per person and usually much less.
Here are some photos. Ok, well, maybe more than just some, but I had a hard time choosing.
So, you can understand why I wasn’t able to eat sushi in Singapore for many many years, much less the supermarket sushi that started it all.
But it’s coming to two years since my last trip to Tokyo in June 2019, and our next trip to Japan is probably going to be in early 2023, which is another two years away. Time to leave the past behind, embrace the new normal and venture back into the wonderful world of supermarket sushi.
On our previous grocery runs to Don Don Donki in Orchard Central, we walked past the large coolers that housed the many trays of takeaway sushi but didn’t buy any. This time, we choose one tray each and brought them home for dinner.
To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes and deliberately kept my expectations low. But there was no fishy smell from the Donki coolers and the sushi did look quite fresh, so I turned cautiously optimistic.
I chose the Premium Sushi Set A, which comprised 2 chutoro, 2 akami, 2 shiromi (couldn’t identify the specific fish though), 1 hotate, 1 amaebi, 2 negitoro, 1 uni and 1 ikura. Long story short, they were actually quite good.
Not fantastic, but to be fair, there’s no way they could have been at that price point. But both The Wife and I agreed that the quality was actually better than most kaiten sushi shops in Singapore, at a much lower price.
I was worried about the chutoro, hotate, amaebi and uni, because it would have been easy for them to smell and taste fishy given the elapsed time from preparation to consumption. But they tasted surprisingly fresh and flavourful.
Two items that were not quite up to par were the shiromi, which did have a slight fishiness to it; and the two negitoro makis, which were too mushy and didn’t contain any negi, which would have helped with the taste and texture.
The Wife went with the Aburi Salmon Sushi Mix, which were all salmon with four pieces each of karashi mentaiko topped with tobiko, aburi terimayo and plain aburi.
It’s hard to go wrong with flame-torched fatty salmon, especially if they’re topped with strong seasonings like mentaiko mayo and teriyaki sauce. Plus, it was a good idea to re-heat them at 130°C for three minutes in our air fryer just before eating.
Verdict? Good, and worth buying again.
We also bought some side dishes to go with the sushi but since each bag was quite large, we had one-third portions each of gari (ginger), chuka wakame (seaweed) and chuka kurage (jellyfish).
The gari was sweet, tart and refreshing and something we always have in-between bites of sushi. The wakame was nice and crunchy, as was the jellyfish, but the latter was too salty for us.
The total damage came up to $39.40 for the both of us, which is frankly not cheap for supermarket takeaway, but acceptable given that we chose the higher-priced premium options and how surprisingly fresh the seafood was.
I’d still choose a counter seat at Sushi Sei Tsukiji in a heartbeat, but given the current situation, takeout sushi from Donki isn’t a bad option either.