When it comes to a quick lunch, options for nine-to-fivers are limited. There's the ubiquitous fast food drive-through window or the deli case at the supermarket. For a little more cash (and a lot more calories), diners can opt for a buffet restaurant.
Oftentimes these meals leave us feeling bloated and lethargic, hankering for a sugar fix to get us through a busy afternoon.
OEC Revolving Sushi bar opened late last summer. Conveniently located in Midtown in Spenard's Northern Lights Center, it is part of the conveyor belt sushi craze, with customers choosing from a steady stream of fresh sushi that moves along a belt. The price per plate ranges from $2 to $5, and the final bill is calculated based on the number and type of plates. In addition to sushi, cold appetizers, drinks and desserts also move along the belt. A sit-down menu offers the usual suspects -- teriyaki, fried rice, udon -- as well as 50 sushi rolls and a selection of nigiri (raw fish atop a finger-size lump of rice).
A health-conscious coworker and I hit up OEC for lunch on a recent Friday. Pressed for time, we decided to forgo the menu and make our selections from the conveyor belt.
Dark surfaces, lacquered woods and red walls give off an Asian-inspired vibe, while minimal décor and gleaming metal lend the space a vaguely industrial feel. My only criticism stemmed from the poor acoustics: High ceilings, a cavernous dining area and the clatter emanating from an open kitchen do not lend themselves to intimate conversation.
We shared an order of edamame ($2), while my coworker started with a vegetarian roll topped with seaweed salad ($3.50) and I opted for a pair of salmon nigiri ($4). We were both pleased with our choices. I worried that the salmon would be warm or mushy, but the cool, firm, velvety flesh proved otherwise, while the restaurant's unique take on a traditional vegetarian roll was impressive.
Still peckish, we both grabbed for a crunch roll ($3.50). The rich crab, firm shrimp, creamy avocado and crisp cucumber complemented each other perfectly. Tempura flakes and the spicy-sweet sauce made the three pieces seem downright decadent.
Not quite satiated, my friend selected the Spider roll ($5) while I procured the American Eagle ($4) - a traditional California roll topped with marinated beef.
The flavors of the Spider roll melded well, but the presentation was odd -- she ended up picking off the deep-fried soft-shell crab legs that sat on top. My roll was tasty, and the gamey, chewy beef was a welcome respite from all that fish. Still, I'm not sure it's one I would order again. The marinade was a tad on the sweet side and the beef was dry, ostensibly from sitting too long on the conveyor belt.
My husband and I headed to OEC a week later for a leisurely dinner. I again gravitated toward the conveyor belt, while he wanted to check out the menu.
I started with a Washington roll ($4) -- salmon draped over a roll stuffed with tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado and crab meat -- while he went for a California roll ($2). Both were well executed and satisfying. Still craving sushi, I chose the Mango Madness roll ($4).
Ripe, juicy mango lent unique sweetness to a traditional California roll, though I found the sweetness somewhat off-putting and wished I'd stuck with the Rainbow roll, my go-to choice at sushi restaurants.
My husband ordered the pork katsu ($16.95) with soup, rice and salad. The pork was served piping hot with the appropriate amount of breading. The pork was tender, but it lacked moistness and flavor. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give the dish a 3.
OEC Revolving Sushi Bar is a great place for a quick meal and a good choice for a proper sit-down meal.
For the uninitiated, the conveyor belt can be an inexpensive way to sample different types of sushi.
Inspired rolls and a fun, unique atmosphere are the calling cards of this Midtown eatery.
By Carly Horton Stuart
Daily News correspondent