Magic Touch Bullet Train Sushi in Cerritos does not look like an ordinary sushi restaurant. There is no visible sushi bar, no traditional waitstaff, and in the place of tables spread across an open floor plan are several long rows of booths and counter seats, all arranged with access to a small, rail-like system that winds out of a hole in the kitchen wall and through the dining area.
After you’ve been seated (via a tablet-managed waitlist) and punched your order into a tableside iPad (maximum four dishes at a time), the bizarre double-decker beltway is how Magic Touch delivers its affordable sushi rolls, fried appetizers, mochi balls and more to customers — direct from the chef to your seat via “high-speed” miniature bullet trains.
The technology for loading digitally ordered dishes onto model bullet trains was first developed by Japanese chain Genki Sushi, an industry leader in those popular revolving (conveyor-belt) sushi restaurants. Last year, Genki converted its conveyor belt–equipped location in Santa Ana — where slow foot traffic meant prefab rolls swirled around the room untouched for hours — into the country’s first Genki Bullet Express.
Magic Touch Bullet Train Sushi opened in March as the second of its kind in the country and the first in Los Angeles County. But because the restaurant is not in the Genki family, it was able to rethink the server-free concept and make some tweaks for American audiences.
The most immediately noticeable upgrade is the elimination of Genki’s campiness, which started at its angry-emoji logo and continued with bright booths, wild interior design and a custom ordering program that remains designed with Japanese users in mind.
Magic Touch, by contrast, is all-around sleeker, with a subtle color scheme, DIY (from a spout at your table) hot green tea and a much simpler tablet menu (which automatically sends the train back after you take your food off — no need to press a button!), all of which makes the bullet train delivery seem less like a gimmick and more like a crucial part of the entire future-of-sushi experience.
It also makes for fewer distractions from the food itself, which runs an extensive gamut from creatively topped variations on California rolls (average price for four pieces: $2.50) to tempura-stocked udon noodle bowls ($5.25) to delicately prepped slices of fish (raw, seared or topped) that are higher quality than anything else you can find in L.A. for the same price (most nigiri or sashimi here cost $2.75).
Not without local flair, the menu also includes three sushi “tacos” — a Magic Touch invention that drops a fried oyster, a snow crab chirashi or a spicy shrimp tempura onto a big nori square. For dessert, there are fruit jellies, cut fruit, cheesecake and mochi ice cream.
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All this comes whizzing directly to your table within minutes of you pressing “send” on the iPad, an immediacy familiar to anyone who’s used Postmates or UberEats. And with bins of ginger, packets of wasabi, napkins, cups, soy sauce and chopsticks already stocked on each table, the employees simply walk the aisles, bussing empty plates and refilling (non-tea) drinks.
The only time you absolutely have to interact with a staffer is at the end of your meal. When you’ve had your fill of small plates, review your bill, then hit the “call attendant” button on the tablet and someone will bring the check to your table for payment. Bullet train technology might be the future of sushi delivery, but you still need a human touch once in a while.
11900 South St., Ste. 105, Cerritos; (562) 402-5177.