James Kwak is planning a January opening for Red Tuna, a 200-seat kaiten sushi and robatayaki restaurant at the Tacoma Mall, 4502 S. Steele St., Tacoma.
The 6,000 square foot restaurant is under construction now in a space near the Forever 21 store.
Kwak previously owned a sushi restaurant in Kent called Kaiten Sushi, named after the style of sushi where sushi chefs prepare small plates of rolls and nibbles, which are then placed on conveyor belts for self-service dining. The plates are color coded, each color representing a set price, usually from $1-$5 a plate. A server shuttles drinks and counts the plates at the end of the meal to tally the bill, but the dining experience largely is self service from the belt. It’s not a new concept here. Located just down the street from Red Tuna is Sushi Revolution, a kaiten sushi restaurant that opened in 2007. Also in Puyallup’s South Hill are Sushi Land and Sushi Station. The restaurants are either referred to as kaiten sushi restaurants or conveyor belt sushi.
Red Tuna sounds like the typical setup for kaiten sushi – plates will cost in the $1.50-$5 range. What sounded much more interesting is Kwak’s plan for robatayaki – a style of Japanese grilling. I’m not sure what it will entail and Kwak was short on details about his grilling techniques other than to say that robatayaki would include group seating for diners. If robatayki at Red Tuna entails cooking on a hearth over open flame like this restaurant, then I think that will be a first for Tacoma.
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When I saw the sign go up for Red Tuna last month, I headed to Sushi Revolution for a status check. Maybe it was my visit, but it seems the offerings were a little more slim than previous visits. Still, I thought the ahi tuna poke was a fair bargain at $2.50 a plate.