Hidden away on 107th Ave NE in Downtown Bellevue, Marinepolis Sushiland is a restaurant that serves an assortment of sushi and other Japanese cuisine. At Sushiland, customers are seated alongside a conveyor belt and can pick out individual servings of sushi as they pass by.
The building itself is nestled in a secluded corner between high-rise apartments. In order to reach it, I had to drive down small backroads that felt like alleyways and into a cramped, heavily sloped parking lot. I had never heard of the restaurant before, and I can imagine that the location is a main factor. Many people choose to eat at a restaurant simply because they have seen it while driving, rather than seek it out. The only way for people to discover Sushiland is through the internet or word of mouth.
We visited the restaurant shortly before the dinner rush, so there were only a few people dining. From the moment we walked in, we were greeted by the servers with an enthusiastic shout so the atmosphere was definitely inviting from the start. Because the restaurant was nearly empty, all the idle employees were pacing by the doorway when we walked in, which was slightly off-putting, especially when my friends and I were shouted at when we got through the door.
The walls and entryway were covered with fake spider webs and caution tape in the spirit of Halloween. Although it was fun to be in such a casual and festive environment, I wish that the money spent on decorations would have been put towards improving the condition of the restaurant amenities. Upon sitting down in the booth that we were shown to I slammed down onto the bench because the seat was damaged and lacked padding.
Although the employees were very welcoming, I couldn’t get over how cramped and poorly maintained the restaurant itself was. It seems likely to me that the building had recently been purchased from another restaurant chain but not remodeled or even restored. The extremely casual atmosphere gave me a strong sense of discomfort, because of the precision it takes to make safe sushi.
We were seated on the opposite side of the conveyor belt from one of the sushi chefs. As he was cutting fish and rolling the sushi, there was a pungent scent of old fish that I have not smelled in other sushi restaurants. Sushi grade fish shouldn’t have that kind of stench – it should have nearly no smell at all. Needless to say, my appetite dwindled before I even tasted any sushi.
The sushi itself was presented poorly. All of the sushi on the conveyor belt was covered with a plastic lid, which in many cases was fogged up to the point where the food couldn’t be seen – a sign of it sitting out for long periods of time. The food was covered for a reason, however – several fruit flies were hovering around our table for the duration of our meal. The taste of the food was not particularly bad, but the uncomfortable atmosphere made it difficult to focus on enjoying what we paid for.
Not everything about the restaurant was bad, however. The people I ate with were regulars, and claimed that the restaurant had good quality food for a very low price. I was skeptical – I am not one to go for cheap sushi, I would sooner pay more for safe, good quality fish. My friends insisted that I had to try out this restaurant, so I obliged.
The whole restaurant reminded me of a friendly fast food burger joint with the tiled floors, fluorescent lighting and bright red leather booths. But I don’t think that a kind of experience that is similar to fast food is best at a sushi restaurant. In addition to the ambiance, the prices of the sushi were shockingly low, with some of the plates costing as little as $1.00. All of these things combined made me skeptical about the quality of the sushi – and as it turns out, rightfully so.
Hours after eating raw salmon at Sushiland, I began to get abdominal pain, which progressed into a very uncomfortable stomachache that lasted for the remainder of the night. So the initial impression that the restaurant gave me was true – the seafood was not handled properly.
I think that Sushiland is unable to reach the quality of food and service because the prices are so ridiculously low. The restaurant would benefit if they raised their prices slightly and used the extra revenue to improve the quality and cleanliness of the facilities. Perhaps my experience would have been better if I ate during the dinner rush when all of the sushi would have been freshly prepared. However, because of the fact that I got sick from the sushi, I would not recommend eating at Sushiland.