BETTINA GONZALEZ ’16
After a long hectic week of classes, work, and other of life’s relentless madness, it’s nice to do something fun and spontaneous and just a little bit guilty. That’s how I would describe how a friend and I first decided to check out Umi Sushi + Tapas in Blue Back Square; we had had a long week and just needed to get away from campus. Without our own means of transportation, of course, this was a little problematic. So despite having strolled through all the customary spots in Westfarms and Blue Back numerous times, we decided to just take the off-campus shuttle and head over there with the usual herd. Following the crowd has never been my thing. It’s more like a guilty pleasure. In any normal circumstance, I would not be writing about a typical food joint that maybe half of this campus has been to. But then, I stopped and considered the other half – those of you who maybe have not gone, those of you who have not taken the time to take the off-campus shuttle on Saturdays and visited Blue Back, those of you too stubborn or afraid to partake in a little guilty pleasure. I say: suck it up because you are missing out on a pretty damn good thing.
Getting off the shuttle, we walked over to Umi and, as expected, ran into a few other Trinners. The waiting area was full as always, so we had to wait maybe 15 or so minutes before getting seated. As my friend and I waited, we looked around the busy little gastropub trying to figure out how it worked. Umi Sushi + Tapas is a kaiten style restaurant and bar. Kaiten refers to the conveyor belt way of getting sushi and other delicious food around to the diners. I had only been to one once before and quite frankly, I didn’t even know that conveyor belt sushi was actually a thing everywhere. Luckily, when we were seated, our server was there to explain all the kinks to dining in their restaurant. On the conveyor belt are plates with different colored rings; the colors represent the prices of each dish and you can find those prices listed all over the restaurant walls and menu. Because Umi can get busy and crowded, each table has a set of buttons that you can push asking for different kinds of services – refills, busing, and check.
Besides the sushi, Umi also has a full menu to order from. Not surprisingly, I was hungry and so was my friend, so we ordered from the menu in addition to having the conveyor belt sushi. Service was a little slow (though I think they did that on purpose) and we ended up picking up a few plates of sushi and rolls from the belt. There was one instance when we were eating a simple tuna roll and this beautiful decadent plate of spicy lobster roll passed by. We stared at it baffled as it made its way across from us. Quick! Grab it! Too late. That particular plate was on the pricier end so we decided to skimp on the sushi and just wait for it to come back. We waited and waited and waited. Tuna rolls passed by, Philadelphia rolls, a plate of chocolate mousse cake, some shrimp tempura rolls, buffalo chicken rolls, more tuna rolls – at that point, my friend and I thought it was over. We missed our chance. But as soon as we almost gave our hopes up, there it was. Quickly scampering, we grabbed our prize. All I can say is that it was well worth the wait. One piece was a mouthful itself, the mixture of flavors and texture was on point, and if I hadn’t been on a budget I would have happily spent the night eating nothing but several plates of it.
But we were on a budget and still hungry. When our server finally returned, both of us ordered the Umi Ramen, a soup made with spicy miso soup, fried chicken, poached egg, corn, scallions, and toasted seaweed. As typical college students, I don’t know why in Sam Hill we needed more ramen in our life; but to be honest, this was actually the first time we had real ramen (as real as it could get). It tasted flavorful, like it actually had some semblance of nutritional value! All in all, the best part of that meal, I think, was watching my friend struggle as she tried to eat with chopsticks. Next time the Saturday off-campus shuttle is running, consider going to Umi. Right in the center of Blue Back Square, this little gem is a great guilty pleasure spot for a college student on a budget.