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‘Boatman' sushi makes waves in Ha Noi

Update: March, 02/2014 - 19:49
Whatever floats your boat: Once prepared, the sushi is placed on vessels that drift to diners in the restaurant's unique concept.

Kobune Sushi might be located in a megamall, but the marine-themed restaurant offers a more authentic sushi experience than many other Japanese establishments in the capital city. Nguyen My Ha reports.

If you're a fan of sushi and sashimi, there are plenty of Japanese restaurants in downtown Ha Noi on Trieu Viet Vuong or Bui Thi Xuan or further west on Kim Ma, a whole street with Japanese restaurants and lounges that cater to every budget. So when I found out about Kobune Restaurant in the newly opened Mega Mall in Royal City, I was skeptical about making the long trip. It turned out, however, that it was worth the ride.

Kobune Sushi in Japanese means "The Boatman Sushi", and it's the perfect destination for a family: the adults can do the shopping and the children can play in the Kidz city, then everyone can sit down to have dinner together at the sushi bar or the tables nearby. Kobune Sushi is conveniently located near the parking area: just ask the security man along the road, and he will steer you in the right direction.

We were a big group, so each person chose a main course and we all shared the appetisers. The mixed tempura (VND135,000 or US$6.5) was a good pick, filled with crispy shrimp. Fresh salmon sashimi (VND118,000) was gone very fast as the salmon was fresh and juicy.

Dinh Ngoc Quang, owner of the restaurant, has 25 years of experience making sushi and teaching at the Gastronomy Centre in West Berlin. Quang first went to Moscow at age 16 to study clarinet. After graduation, before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he made his way west to Berlin.

In his restaurant at Royal City, a set of seven boats on the ceiling shape a chandelier that represents a fisherman going out to sea every day to fetch fresh food to bring to diners.

"The most distinguished feature of my restaurant," he said, "is that sushi is placed on real little boats that float on water to the diners."

Fish for compliments: The sashimi plates, which offer a selection of fresh fish, are likely to disappear quickly.

Starting in 1991, Quang worked in Japanese restaurants, where he learned to make sushi from sushi masters.

"I fell in love with Japanese cuisine. It fits perfectly with my artistic nature. Sushi also has its own style, which really fascinated me," Quang said.

In the past ten years, as the economy in Viet Nam grew, many cuisines made their way to Ha Noi. But Quang estimated that 80 per cent of the capital's Japanese restaurants still made "different sushi" rather than the traditional Japanese style. "There is only one sushi master, at the Nikko Hotel," he said. "I would like to bring to the table the authentic sushi as they make in Japan, with all the rice and seaweed imported from Japan and all the fresh seafood imported either from Europe or Japan."

Kobune chefs have seven or eight years working experience and are retrained for at least six months to maintain the standard set by the owner.

For those who don't like raw fish, I strongly recommend the Avocado Maki (VND25,000) and salmon and Avocado Inside Out (VND59,000). Chicken Sticks with Teriyaki sauce (VND89,000) are another tasty option.

Sampling sama: Simple grilled sama is served with rice. — VNSPhotos Truong Vi

Children who like hot and salty food will enjoy Chicken Udon (VND89,000) and seafood udon (VND99,000). The soups are big enough to fill the empty stomachs of the kids who waited past their dinnertime because of the long ride. We had rice with roasted sama (VND89,000) and felt quite full.

Still, a trip to a Japanese restaurant is never complete without either smooth mochi (glutinous rice) sweets (VND45,000 for two pieces) or matcha (green tea) ice cream (VND48,000).

Kobune Sushi

Tel: 04-6262-0286

B2-R2-12, Food Center, East Gate

Royal City Mega Mall

72A Nguyen Trai, Ha Noi

Comment: Traditional sushi in a fine atmosphere

The restaurant boasts more than 100 dishes, but once you find a dish you enjoy, you tend to order it every time you go. Many diners enjoy the eel dishes, although I didn't get a chance to try them.

If you work near the Royal City complex, you can try the set lunch menu at a comfortable price of less than VND200,000. For the downtown folks, it's too far away for a quick lunch.

But if it's raining like last weekend and you have a whole Saturday or Sunday to entertain the whole family, a trip to Royal City with lunch or dinner at Kobune Sushi is a great choice.

"In Germany, I had a sushi named after my family name: Mr. Dinh," Quang told me. "It is a roll with cooked salmon and a piece of eel on top. Here at Kobune, it's called Kobune Roll (VND79,000) a plate."

For that, I will definitely make another trip to Royal City! — VNS

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