I think that you can tell how advanced a city is by the food it serves. If we are looking at dumplings and microwaved burgers from a stand, welcome to Kiev, Ukraine. However if we are looking at the finest Pizza and Pasta, your in Rome, Italy. Wait, so maybe my good food equals advanced society analogy doesn’t hold up but you get the idea.
One of the rungs on the ladder to edible society advancement is the sushi train. Sushi itself is several runs below it. It’s easy to get someone up there rolling maki but sushi train is way more advanced, not only do you need to install the little conveyor to take the tasty morsels to hungry clients, you actually need a certain amount of clients to make it worth while. I was ecstatic, this discovery along with the first kebab store with a real spinning stick of meat heralds a true golden age of Estonian dining!
I LOVE sushi train. It combines two passions of mine, sushi and being delivered food automatically. Instant food and you can eat as much as you want stopping only when you feel like it, for better or worse. Sushi train is culinary power to the people. It is the ultimate in freedom in a new democracy. While the Finns feed their fat holes at the buffet, classy Estonians can have their foreign treats brought to them. The downside of sushi train is your hunger becomes inversely proportional to your wallet thickness. I had a feeling I would be leaving with a particularly thin wallet.
I started to wonder why sushi train had not been in Estonia before. Estonians in general are not good with the trains. Was it a problem that this pint sized express service was the most on-time train service available in the whole country? Maybe it was because trains in Estonia have sort of a bad reputation… from the occupation days. Could it be thought that the chefs were deporting these small tasty sushi pieces to the Sibera of my mouth? Don’t even start with the German speaking guy who joined me as the other only customer.
When I arrived I was greeted by the two ladies working there and I couldn’t believe it, they were genuinely Asian! In Tallinn! How exotic! They seem quite tan so I’m guessing south east Asian and not Japanese but hey progress is progress. I looked at the time and saw it was 10:50 when their opening time was 11:00. It was a cold day and I was very happy they invited me in and didn’t tell me to come back later because “kord on kord”. A new generation of stop assistant who doesn’t know what “kord on kord”* means! Literally. I’m not sure they speak Estonian.
Sushi train isn’t all fantastic however. The store is a bit plain and out of the way. If I know Tallinners, they like their stuff a bit trendy, a bit different, a bit less plain. Who can blame them, after 50 years of Soviet rule where “gray” was technically classed as a flavor you would want the same. It is in this respect that Sushi Cat has the upper hand. Bright lights, endless anime and odd pictures off the staff which makes it seem a bit cultish give it that extra touch of flair over this railroad establishment.
As I took another plate off the conveyor and jammed it down my sushi hole, it occured to me why this will most certainly be a success in Estonia. I have come in, sat down and got my food, all while having to only say 1 word of greeting to the staff. Service where you don’t have to interact with a person? I think we have a winning business model! Maybe the Japanese and Estonian cultures have more in common than we would think. The Soviet era kiosks that still dot Tallinn went half way to automation, they don’t have a robot but an old Russian woman which is quite similar in level of personalty.
The golden age is truly here. Now Tallinn has a way of buying food which will please the locals who don’t want to talk and the scared foreigners who are too stupid to.
* “kord on kord” is an Estonian phrase meaning “rules are rules”
He was the co-founder of Comedy Estonia, Comedy Finland and Comedy Latvia. Louis writes, does gigs and performs at private events through the Baltics and Finland