The Original Sushi Boat Stakes Its Claim

Bay Area food revies Isobune

There’s something kitschy to be said for sushi boat, or conveyor belt sushi restaurants. It’s not a particularly traditional presentation of sushi, and who knows how long that little plate of tekkamaki or hamachi has been making the rounds.

Still, there’s a novelty to it that I just can’t resist. And if you choose a sushi boat restaurant that is busy and well-regarded, you can ensure that your sushi hasn’t been sitting out there for too long. My favorite is Isobune, which bills itself as the “original sushi boat.” I’ve been a frequent visitor to both their Burlingame and San Francisco Japantown locations for years.

Both branches offer several varieties of sushi, but the Japantown location is always more crowded and so the boats are refilled more quickly. Both locations’ selection range is good, offering everything from the Americanized crunchy roll to broiled baby octopus maki.

If there is something you want in particular but don’t see, Isobune’s sushi chefs are always more than happy to oblige. (I often go for a cleansing and slightly sweet kampyo maki at the end of my meal.) My only wish is that Isobune offered less American-style sushi and more traditional variations.

Isobune’s sushi boats offer a few non-sushi items as well, like edamame, mango pudding and deep-fried shrimp heads.

These shrimp heads may not look appetizing, but they’re delightfully crunchy and flavorful. Plus, the looks of horror from those dining around you as you bite into a piece are totally worth it.

Isobune’s sushi is fresh, the service is good (particularly in Burlingame), and best of all, the anticipation of not knowing what kind of sushi will come around the corner next makes for a really fun dining experience.

Mariam Hosseini is a Bay Area native who has been writing about food and travel for six years. She blogs regularly at

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