A mechanical Lucky Cat waves her paws on the front counter as two sushi chefs prepare fresh delicacies and place them in domed dishes on a moving conveyor belt.
I watch all the dishes pass by me before choosing the ones I want at Kaito Sushi Bar. I know in my cruising years I have sometimes ordered an appetizer or entrée from one of the ship restaurants and, when it arrived, it didn’t look at all like I thought it would. Or taste like I thought it would.
One cruise ship that has since been scuttled would have entrees and desserts displayed at the entrance to the main dining room. Certainly helped in diner choices.
So I really appreciate this specialty restaurant on the MSC Seashore. To make it even easier at Kaito Sushi Bar, the place mat at the table where I am seated explains the price of each dish passing by me.
Blue plated food costs $5. Orange $6. Red $7. Pink $8. Yellow $9. And green $14.
On the conveyor belt is:
Nigiri – sushi consisting of a small ball of rice smeared with wasabi sauce and topped with raw fish or other seafood.
Sashimi – thinly sliced raw seafood served without rice and typically eaten with soy sauce. The word means “pierced fish.”
Maki – fish, vegetables or other ingredients rolled up inside of seaweed and vinegared rice, then sliced into round-size bites. The seafood may be raw or cooked.
Futomaki – a roll of seasoned rice and fillings wrapped in a thin sheet of roasted, dried nori seaweed, then sliced crosswise into rounds and served with wasabi and pickled ginger. Word means “fat rolled sushi.”
Temaki – hand-rolled type of sushi characterized by its conical shape. Looks like an ice cream cone filled with rice, raw fish and vegetables wrapped in a piece of nori seaweed.
Other Menu Items
The menu also offers a wide variety of tempura, teriyaki, otsumami, soups, noodles, rice, salad and desserts that aren’t on the conveyor belt. Plus a nice selection of wine, beer and cocktails.
At the suggestion of my waiter Kevin, I had a Tiger Asian Lager Beer which went well with my yaki soba ($6), a dish of stir-fried soba noodles, vegetable, chicken and soy sauce.
I also chose a salmon nigiri ($5) and yellowtail tuna maguro maki ($7) from the conveyor belt. For dessert, Kevin recommended matcha tea ice cream, homemade green tea ice cream ($5). Very good.
I can’t say enough about all the servers and crew members I have met on MSC Seashore. They are hardworking, friendly, knowledgeable and excellent at their jobs.
Next door to Kaito Sushi Bar is Kaito Teppanyaki which I will not be trying on this cruise. Along with providing tasty Asian dishes, this specialty restaurant offers entertainment as well.
I did look in the window of Kaito Teppanyaki after my dinner and saw some of the acrobatic preparations done by the Asian chef as diners sat in front of his preparation table.
Lucky Cat Legend
As for that Lucky Cat in the Kaito Sushi Bar, Kevin explained that the fancy cats known as Maneki Neko – meaning “beckoning cat” – are often seen at entrances to Japanese and Chinese restaurants. The little figures are said to bring good luck or prosperity.
Of course, like many beloved creatures, Maneki Neko has a legend behind it. The lucky cats have been popular since Japan’s Edo Period which ran from 1603 to 1868.
The story goes that a lord was riding by a dilapidated temple that was now home to only one priest and his old cat. Suddenly, a dangerous storm began brewing. The lord and his horse sought refuge under a nearby tree.
But then, the lord spots the priest’s cat with his paw raised beckoning him in the temple.
For some reason, the lord complied. Moments later, lightning strikes the tree. If he hadn’t moved, the lord would have been killed. He knew that cat had saved his life.
In honor of his good fortune, the lord revived the shrine and made it his family temple. Now, people from around the world visit Gotokuji, the actual place in Setagaya, Japan, and purchase lucky cat figurines. Many leave their souvenir cats at the temple to honor granted wishes.
As for that lifted paw, sometimes it is the right, sometimes the left.?Sometimes, it is both.
The left paw is calling for customers and the?right paw is calling for money. Having a lucky cat is thought to bring its owner good luck.
There is also a great deal of symbolism especially surrounding the color of the cat. The traditional color of calico is considered to be the luckiest. White means happiness, purity and positive things to come. Gold signifies wealth and prosperity. Black wards off evil spirits. Red denotes success in love and relationships. And green means good health.
Even what the Maneki Neko is wearing and holding has a meaning. The traditional Maneki Neko is a finely dressed cat usually adorned with a bib, collar and bell. In the Edo period, it was common for wealthy people to tie a little bell to their cat’s collar so they would know where it was.
Some cats hold a small marble or gem supposed to be a money magnet, although some people believe the marble or gem is meant to be a crystal ball and represents wisdom and future knowledge.
Never know what you might learn on a cruise.
Thanks MSC Cruises and All Things Cruise for the wonderful adventure.
Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch
- A $9 choice on the conveyor belt.
- A $7 choice.
- The conveyor belt moves past diners.
- My dining spot at Kaito Sushi Bar. The kettle contains soy sauce.
- The Asian beer my waiter recommended.
- Green tea ice cream.
- A Lucky Cat welcomes diners to Kaito Sushi Bar. (cover photo)
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