What goes around, comes around

Tucked into the right-hand corner when you first walk into the Burlington Town Center is a sight unlike anything else in the area: a collection of booth-style tables arranged for easy access to the small plates of sushi that pass by on an ever-moving conveyor belt in the center.

A Cuisine is an Asian fusion restaurant that opened last fall, offering a new style of eatery to the wanderers of Church Street. It utilizes the Japanese style of kaiten sushi, which translates directly as “rotation sushi” but is more commonly known as conveyor belt sushi.

Although there is a door that leads directly to the street outside, the restaurant’s main entrance is in the Town Center, where it has no wall and is entirely open to the foot traffic of the mall. Getting a table is merely a matter of finding an empty one and sitting down, which gives it a very open, come-and-go ambiance. There is some strategy when it comes to choosing a table; the fewer tables there are between you and the sushi chef, the better your dibs on newly-made sushi.

After a brief survey of the landscape, my dining companion and I chose a table at the front of the restaurant. Three tables were ahead of us on the conveyor belt, but only two were occupied and our sushi variety didn’t suffer for it.

The best thing about the conveyor belt style is that you can sit down and immediately begin eating sushi, so long as you choose from the already-revolving dishes. The pricing system is based on color: white and green plates are $3, red and yellow plates are $5. When we were there, almost all of the dishes were either red or yellow, so I’m not entirely sure what would qualify to be less expensive. The only green plate that I saw held a few pastel-colored objects that looked to be in the cookie family, and were simply labeled “Dessert.”

For a beverage, I ordered a milk bubble tea, which is unlike the American style of tea; this is a good thing in my case, as I don’t much care for American tea. The “bubbles” are actually tapioca pearls, which are just the right diameter to fit, one at a time, through the oversized straw provided with the drink. I had tried bubble tea once while in Boston and had enjoyed it, but that one was strawberry flavored and tasted surprisingly like Nesquik. This milk bubble tea had a much subtler flavor, and was more complementary to the savory flavors of our meal.

Along with the sushi, A Cuisine offers a menu of other Asian dishes. Since we wanted a full meal and filling up on just the sushi could have gotten expensive quickly, we ordered an entrée from the menu to split: a noodle dish with beef and vegetables. It came arranged in a large, shallow bowl, with the noodles — a crunchy variety — spread along the bottom of the bowl and the beef and vegetables poured in the middle. The broth from those ingredients softened the noodles underneath it while the outer ring of noodles remained crunchy, which offered an interesting array of textures with each bite.

I almost always enjoy Asian food, Japanese particularly, because the flavor is so much simpler than our American style and doesn’t taste like it’s going to contribute to an early death-by-heart-attack. The beef and noodle dish exemplified this style of cooking, from its thin, crispy noodles to its adorable baby corns to its thin slices of beef that took just the right amount of time to chew.

Before, during, and after our consumption of the beef and noodles, we pulled the occasional plate of sushi off the conveyor belt. Each plate had either three or four pieces, which was interesting with two people. The four-piece plates worked quite well, while the three-piece plates became a matter of which person enjoyed their first piece more and would thus get the maximum possible enjoyment from the final piece.

My largest complaint about cheap sushi is usually that the rice is dry. Despite its time circulating the restaurant on the conveyor belt before being eaten, each of the pieces of sushi still tasted fresh and held together well. This was likely because each plate had a plastic, Tupperware-like cover that had to be popped off to access the food below.

Although the random sample style of the conveyor belt is the restaurant’s main attraction, it is by no means the only way to enjoy their selection of rolls, also known as “maki.” The menu offers a listing of sushi, and you can special order them if there’s one you would especially like to try. We wanted to try their Black Dragon Maki, so we asked the waitress and were offered two ways to receive it: either put in a request to the chef and wait for it to come around on the belt, or have the entire roll delivered to our table. We chose the former, and a few minutes later we were able to grab a plate of our desired maki from the selection of sushi passing by us.

The wonderful thing about this style of restaurant is that you aren’t limited to experiencing a single meal. Each new plate of sushi offers a new flavor experience, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have an entire entrée that you’ve committed to. You can simply move on to another plate when it comes around.

Once we decided that we couldn’t feasibly afford to keep trying sushi, we flagged down the waitress and asked for the check. She counted our plates — five of the red and yellow variety — and added the total to our bill. Although it might seem confusing at first to a newcomer, the system is both simple and effective.

If you’re looking for a restaurant experience that’s unlike any other you’ll find in the state, A Cuisine is worth trying at least once. Their menu offers many different styles of dishes, from teriyaki to rice to hot pots, so you don’t have to like sushi to enjoy a meal there. The prices seemed to get a bit high on some of the entrées — many were in the $20 to $30 range — but if you’re not looking to spend much, or if you have limited time, you can simply grab a couple of sushi plates and be done with your meal in a few minutes.

All-around, I greatly enjoyed my experience at A Cuisine. If I discovered that I had won the lottery, I think it’s very possible that the following day would be largely spent occupying one of the restaurant’s booths, trying each new maki as it came along and getting frequent refills of my bubble tea.