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Beep Boop: A Sushi Robot Is Coming to Town

TOMI, a forthcoming Revival Food Hall vendor, will serve up machine-rolled uramaki in bright colors.

Machine-rolled sushi from TOMI   Courtesy of TOMI

Have you ever eaten sushi crafted by a robot? If you haven’t yet, get ready to sample some in September, when TOMI arrives at Revival Food Hall to hawk Japan’s trademark, traditionally hand-rolled dish. The forthcoming vendor will likely appeal for its use of a mechanical sushi-maker along with its promise of super high-quality fish, sold at affordable prices and presented in eye-catching color.

TOMI is the brainchild of Trisha Bun and chef Pamela Decker, both formerly of Yuzu. Bun has been working in the sushi industry for more than 20 years and has developed a passion for making top-notch, reasonably priced food.

“I want office people, workers, students to be able to afford sushi, but how can I do that without serving trash?” Bun says. “If I don’t feel comfortable eating sushi, I won’t offer it to anyone. I don’t want to give anyone BS, because I don’t have any tolerance for BS.”

Helping her serve up fresh raw fish is the aforementioned sushi automaton, which is manufactured by the Japanese company Suzumo. “The inventor created a machine that mimics the hand of the sushi chef,” says Bun. “I don’t have to compromise the quality of food. You can have Michelin star-grade seafood, without sacrificing price.” TOMI aims to start at $6.25 per roll — grocery store prices — and Bun wants to try and push this number even further down.

The robot’s presence yields another bonus: you may not have to wait very long for your lunch, unlike at many other stalls in the food hall. The Suzumo Sushi Robot can crank out 350 rolls an hour — seven times the production rate of a human chef. Bun puts this in other terms: “I’d have to hire 10 sushi chefs to be able to serve Revival.”

In addition to delivering affordable uramaki, TOMI also wants to offer unexpected takes on the Japanese dish. Instead of creating rolls with standard white sushi rice, Bun and Decker are infusing their grains with different colors, flavors, and even smells. Patrons will be able to order green, matcha-infused sushi; purple beetroot rolls; rolls pinked from rose petals; or blue bites, made with cornflower. These supplements, Bun says, make the rice more nutritious. In the case of the floral infusions, the results also have a light floral scent.

Also on the menu are sides made from seasonal ingredients, including a stacked cucumber salad, roasted Brussels sprouts, and other veggies. It’s also planning to offer a dinnertime omakase tasting menu at its small counter.

Bun is on a mission to get people to slow down a little during their lunch, which is why TOMI’s sushi will come packed in containers designed to resemble gift boxes to unwrap. “People don’t enjoy mindful-eating enough,” Bun says. “If we can be something that brightens up your day, and you enjoy the box and relax and eat, I’ll be happy.”

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