Now, of course, sushi is almost as mainstream as pasta, and the Seattle sushi scene breaks down into two main styles: the inexpensive, eclectic neighborhood sushi place and the expensive, nigiri-focused citywide draw. There are exceptions, like West Seattle's inexpensive, eclectic and contemporary Mashiko, but generally, if you can name the sushi chef, you're talking about something in the old-school category.
There's nothing old-school about Blue C Sushi in Fremont. The conveyor belt gives it away. Blue C isn't the only kaiten (conveyor) sushi place in town, but they have studied the form and do it well. One rule of the kaiten game is to keep the belt full, because there's nothing lonelier than an empty conveyor belt (think of the baggage claim before the suitcases start coming out). Blue C's belt is groaningly full.
Another rule is to get things off the belt before they get stale. Blue C takes care of this by printing a barcode on each plate to count how many times it's been around the block. If no one springs for that spider roll in time, it's history.
Finally, now that kaiten sushi is no longer new, you have to be cleverer than the pack. At Blue C, this is the job of the design guru. A talented designer can do a lot for a restaurant. Think of Top Pot, where the doughnuts draw people in but the retro-to-the-bones aesthetic makes them feel cool.
Blue C's gimmick is the Tokyo subway. Each color of plate corresponds to a price level and to a line of the Tokyo metro. For example, the yellow "Ginza Line" plates cost $2, and on these plates you'll find the California roll, tamago (omelet) nigiri and the tofu roll.
An orange "Yurakucho Line" plate ($2.50) held a blanched spinach salad, which looked like a giant meatball.
The $3 "Tozai Line" plates feature spicy tuna roll, eel and cucumber roll or teriyaki chicken. (They make a lot more rolls at Blue C than nigiri pieces, but you can make a special request for almost anything.)
There's one other gimmick. At each seat at the bar is a call button. Press it, and a blue light goes on over your head, and soon a flight attendant ... I mean, a waiter ... comes ambling over. Wouldn't it be great if every restaurant had these?
Practically everything at Blue C, from the plates to the chopsticks to the cute menu (resembling a children's board book) is imprinted with the Blue C logo, a letter C dry-brushed with blue paint. This makes the place feel a little like a chain. It's not, yet, but it's a good place to bring kids or anyone else looking for an inexpensive and not-too-serious sushi experience.
Matthew Amster-Burton: firstname.lastname@example.org