The Sushi Hub story is one of three university friends – Raymond Chen, James Chen and Leon Li – who (at the tender age of twenty-two) started a restaurant chain that has grown into nearly forty stores spread across three states.
Last month the three men celebrated a decade in the restaurant game at a gala event for over five hundred people at Dockside Pavilion. After enjoying an evening with their staff and suppliers, tucking into a multi-course Chinese banquet provided by The Eight Modern Chinese Restaurant, I was intrigued to see what this chain was actually about.
Utilising 10 million sheets of nori (seaweed) a year to produce 13.5 million sushi rolls, Sushi Hub’s main focus is on takeaway food and kiosk style stores. However some stores – like the one I visited at Central – supplement their bustling takeaway trade with a dine-in area.
Rptecture Architects have walked a clever line between catering to the needs of the fast-paced urban environment, and creating an oasis from the frenetic pace using zen-like Japanese architectural styles and natural materials, including wood and sisal.
Dining in is very much centred upon the sushi train; a double-stacked loop that passes down one side of the restaurant.
Even menu items you order directly from servers, like Chicken Karaage Udon ($8.60), arrive on the same coloured plates as your sushi to speed up restaurant accounting. It’s a pleasant enough noodle soup, though our accompanying mayo-topped fried chicken is sadly overcooked.
When it comes to sushi and sashimi, you’ll mostly find me erring on the side of purism, reaching for dishes that celebrate the simplicity of beautifully cut fish.
However at Sushi Hub what I liked best turned out to be their moments of wacky innovation, starting with a brightly coloured, layered, triangular Sushi Sandwich ($2.80) drizzled with mayonnaise.
Pinned together with a skewer, their Sushi Chicken Burger ($3.30) is another kawaii smile-maker, with its ‘buns’ made of sushi rice topped with nori squares.
Even Chicken Hamburg ($3.30/2) - which probably should be written as hamburger – made me smile.
The cold slices of chicken hamburger mince, cooked as a meatloaf, weren’t half bad; ditto Tempura Green Bean Nigiri ($2.80/2) which was another first for me.
Arriving a bit on the cool side, even the most expensive menu item - the Deluxe Sashimi ($13.80) - is still keenly priced.
You don’t even have to commit that much - it’s beaten on flavour by items in their nigiri sushi range, collected straight from the train.
Grilled Spicy Baby Squid ($3.80/2) is both tasty, and visually intriguing enough to make me feel slightly guilty for eating it.
Grilled Cheese Ebi Nigiri ($3.80/2) are a fun prawn update; and Grilled Scallop Nigiri ($4.80/2) are delicious.
Raw Tuna Nigiri ($3.30/2) presents as a little floury, but I’ve got no complaints about BBQ Unagi ($3.80/2) (eel).
Where the train delivery system did fall down – even with high volume usage – was on hot items; giving us a stone cold trio of Pork Gyoza ($3.30/3) and lukewarm Crab Claws ($3.30/2).
Across this many different dishes, and with prices this low – even a totally drinkable Kizakura Yamahai Sake ($7/120ml) is just seven bucks a glass – I’m inclined to let a few errors slide. This also seemed to be the attitude of the university-aged crowd populating the restaurant on the night I dined.
Shop 2/815-825 George Street, Haymarket
Ph: (02) 9281 1258