First Look at Convey

convey1.jpg
Above-average nigiri at Convey, but it doesn't come out on a conveyor belt...yet.
Conveyor belt sushi is not a new concept to most of America, yet here -- in downtown Houston -- it's somewhat of a novelty. In an odd twist, a couple of Outer Loop restaurants were the first to bring the conveyor belt premise to the Houston area (Sushi Choo Choo opened in May 2009), while Inner Loopers are still playing catch-up.

And, sadly, Convey is not the paradigm of this concept that it could be. But it's still new, and I have faith that it can be with time.

My first experience with sushi that arrives at your table via conveyor belt was in Seattle, in February 2005. While I can no longer recall the name of the restaurant, it was old hat in the city by that point and my Seattleite friends chuckled as they watched how earnestly fascinated I was by the system, choosing plates off the line and watching as the waitress tallied them up (priced by color) at the end of our meal.

And if it was old hat in Seattle in 2005, that's nothing compared to how the Japanese must view our current fascination with a food conveyance system that was invented back in Osaka in the late 1950s. By the 1970s, conveyor belt sushi was all over Japan and improvements were steadily being made to that first system.

One such improvement was placing the seats in booths at right angles to the actual conveyor belt itself, allowing more people to sit at one "spot" along the belt at once. This is the system that I saw in Seattle and expected the same here. Unfortunately, Convey didn't go this route, and you sit side-by-side with your dining companion(s) and face the belt.

This is unpleasant for two reasons.

convey5.jpg
Number one, it's difficult to eat with a group larger than two people, as one of you will always be stuck in the middle, craning back and forth to converse over your meal. This could be solved by grabbing some spots at Convey where there are multiple seats on either side of the belt, facing each other, but there's still the second problem.

Number two, there's no actual sushi going around the conveyor belt yet. Instead, people have begun using it as a trash receptacle for their used dishes. The result is that you're stuck staring at someone's slowly percolating plates filled with half-eaten nubs of hamachi as they trundle slowly around the restaurant.

This wouldn't be an issue if Convey actually picked up the plates as they made their way past the kitchen, but even during lunch today when the restaurant was half full, that seemed to be too much to ask for the young place.

I realize, though, that the restaurant is still getting its sea legs and don't want to judge it too harshly on that point. On the other hand...seriously, guys. Pick up the dirty plates off the conveyor belt. No one wants to look at that while they're eating.

convey2.jpg
But for all of that, the sushi itself was good. My friend and I both ordered lunch specials that came with a tremendous amount of food for $12, mine with three different rolls and three different pieces of nigiri, hers with a selection of four different specialty rolls. Both came with miso soup and salad.

The soup and salad were well above average, far exceeding our initial expectations. Miso soup with fat, fresh mushrooms and plenty of green onions? A salad with crispy greens and a stunning creamy ginger-peanut dressing that tasted homemade? Convey was already batting a thousand.

convey3.jpg
I was equally impressed by the fish itself, served room temperature and in large, well-cut pieces. The rice tasted underseasoned, however, something that was more glaring in the nigiri. It was more easily masked in the rolls, which didn't skimp on the fillings. Being standard rolls -- spicy tuna, California, etc. -- they weren't dazzling, but they were sturdy and well-constructed.

My hope for Convey is that traffic in the clean, bright, airy space picks up and it's able to use the conveyor belt as intended. It's a beautiful, calm space that does the soul some good during the busy downtown lunch cattle call at lunch.

For now, though, dinners are quiet and I fear that Convey drops entirely off people's radars at this time. Given some time, though, perhaps this will change. After all, Niko Niko's is still pulling them in night after night -- it's only a matter of time before people start branching out to Market Square's other new denizens like ERA and Convey.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Location Info

Venue

Map

Convey Sushi - CLOSED

801 Congress St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
17 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
tyrone
tyrone

for all ya'll ragging on this place, you gotta remember this place is fairly new and still going thru its soft opening phase. and for the dirty plates you cannot fault the restaurant if a guest put their dirty plates on the belt. some people just dont have manners

Larabach321
Larabach321

hardly a lot of ragging, just a couple wimpy criticisms. note: during a soft-opening everyone keeps his eyes open, so as to not let things like bus-dishes on the golden conveyor happen. it's management, and service, not manners. what would you do if you eat and nothing is cleaned away?

Angie77008
Angie77008

Looks like we were there at the same time... good review. They need to figure out how to use the conveyer belt property since that is at the heart of the concept. I've eaten there twice now-- lunch and dinner-- and the food is really tasty!! For lunch yesterday, we ordered the Salmon Teriyaki bento box which is also a great deal and a ton of food! Soup and salad, piece of salmon, 4 pieces California roll, shrimp and veggie tempura and two dumplings... all super delicious!!

Was more full than empty so not sure where that is coming from... they had a healthy lunch crowd for a new place.

Helen
Helen

I appalled that people are putting dirty dishes on the conveyer belt. The restaurant is allowing/encouraging this?!!?? I've been to a few places like this on the west coast and have never once seen that. Typically, the plates pile up next to you and a server comes by, counts your plates up and takes them away. I was looking forward to checking out Convey, but now... ew, too grossed out.

How full does the restaurant need to be to run the conveyer? There was a neat little place I visited frequently in San Diego like this, and I recall being there many a time when it wasn't busy (though it usually was) with the belt running. The sushi chef would take requests, things would be sent out more slowly, but the belt would still be on. This place ran fantastic lunch specials and they were PACKED. Conveyer belt sushi seems ideal for the downtown lunch crowd (fast), but they are never going to get that crowd if they aren't running the conveyer belt. Take a hit the first few weeks -- it will pay off.

TM
TM

I went there Friday night with 5 other people and we had a great time. Three sat on one side and three on the other. Only a few people were there when we walked in but the conveyor was being used. Once we ordered drinks and got settled we started making requests and things came out pretty quick. Everything that came out had a plastic cover over it so no worries about others sneezing on it. And no one was using it for trash, really who does that. I thought the tuna and salmon rolls were tasty and used very high quality fish. Yes the staff still seemed a little unorganized but I would give them a little more time to figure things out. Overall for the price I thought the food was good and we had a great time.

ec
ec

OMG that first picture makes it very evident that fake seafood is being served. And if the caption says "above average night" that's not a good sign for the reviewer.

Freddot
Freddot

ec,

I guess you could confuse 'night' with 'nigiri. Both are N words and have an 'i' and a 'g'.

And 'First Look' you might read as 'Fruit Loops'. What a wonderful story you must concoct with your unique reading skills!

Ruthie J M
Ruthie J M

Convey is using the conveyor belt for sushi when the restaurant is full -- It was working last Friday and Saturday nights. They said it hasn't been on for lunches yet because there hasn't been a big enough crowd. But with the belt in use or not, there's a kickin' deal when you sit at the bar -- 4 pieces of any roll (regular or "signature") for $4. Nice!

Steenburgen1
Steenburgen1

Seems that to be nearly empty is not the ideal condition for this conveyor concept.

These folks need to wake up. Marketing-wise, if your point of differentiation is your conveyor system, make sure you can get enough people in to use it. Otherwise, you're just another sushi joint, which we hardly need.

Anon
Anon

Is "nearly empty" is the ideal condition for any business?

Steenburgen1
Steenburgen1

Yes, nearly empty is ideal for some businesses (use your imagination), but not for one that relies on enough sushi bar volume to fill the plates and start the belt.

mollusk
mollusk

Perhaps the lack of sushi on the conveyor is related to the lack of a sneeze guard above it, as is required at salad bars. I have no idea whether the health department would or would not require one if people were sitting at booths, as you suggest - or even tables pushed up to it with chairs on either side.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I've never seen a sneeze guard at any of the conveyor belt places I've been, interestingly enough. Those places had booths that placed your neck and head right at belt-level, actually closer -- sneeze-wise -- to the belt than Convey's seats do.

Anon
Anon

I have been at Convey during lunch when they had empty (clean) plates running around on the conveyor, which had clear plastic shields over them to prevent air/sneeze contamination. They also had some Sake bottles going around, which I thought was clever. Even better, that system prevented people who apparently thought they were in a high school cafeteria from putting their dirty dishes on the plate for the admiration of other diners.

I was also at Convey today and was pretty grossed out by the parade of trash running in front of me while trying to enjoy what is above-average sushi.

Galenscotus
Galenscotus

Well the dirty plates are still going to run past a large element of the patrons, if the belt is used at all to dispose of dishes...doesn't have to be high-school cafeteria pranksters.

If there's roughly a conveyor circle and everyone is sitting at points around the circle, that means refuse is going to flow past almost everyone, and especially the last guy before it heads back to the kitchen.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...