Great Sushi Restaurant in Pasadena, CA

In Old Town Pasadena there's an interesting sushi restaurant called A'Float Sushi. The name refers to a unique conveyance system that floats fresh-made sushi on boats around a central bar. Customers sit around the bar and pick off whatever dishes they want to eat. You can tell what price each dish is by the plate it sits upon.

In Old Town Pasadena, the restaurant is near the corner of Raymond and Colorado Blvd.
In Old Town Pasadena, the restaurant is near the corner of Raymond and Colorado Blvd. | Source

A'Float Sushi

My first impression of the place has not changed, even after going there off and on for three years. There's something intriguing about choosing food as it passes by in front of you, instead of from a menu. I like seeing the cooks in the center of the bar make sushi as you watch. And most interesting is trying to figure out how the water moves those boats along.

Central bar, the main focal point of the restaurant. Time is mid-afternoon on a Saturday, so the restaurant is not yet full, but there's still plenty of food.
Central bar, the main focal point of the restaurant. Time is mid-afternoon on a Saturday, so the restaurant is not yet full, but there's still plenty of food. | Source
Restaurant table with patrons watching TV. Tables fill the front of the restaurant and run down the sides of both walls on either side of the sushi bar.
Restaurant table with patrons watching TV. Tables fill the front of the restaurant and run down the sides of both walls on either side of the sushi bar.
Taking a quick break, one of the cooks watches too. Note the glass counter above the boat run. This is where the cooks place special orders.
Taking a quick break, one of the cooks watches too. Note the glass counter above the boat run. This is where the cooks place special orders.
Standing at the cash register, here is the small waiting room looking out onto Colorado Blvd. This area is usually full during peak hours.
Standing at the cash register, here is the small waiting room looking out onto Colorado Blvd. This area is usually full during peak hours. | Source
Boats are hooked together with chains.
Boats are hooked together with chains.
This empty boat will be filled again, as soon as it reaches the location of the cooks.
This empty boat will be filled again, as soon as it reaches the location of the cooks.
Accoutrements: Menu placemat, hand cleaning towel, chopsticks, napkin.
Accoutrements: Menu placemat, hand cleaning towel, chopsticks, napkin. | Source
Spicy salmon sushi roll - one of my favorites. Behind it is tuna nigiri sushi.
Spicy salmon sushi roll - one of my favorites. Behind it is tuna nigiri sushi.
From front to back: Edamame (soybean pods), frozen rice dessert (mochi), a barbecued chicken kebab (yakitori) that I've never tasted, tuna sashimi (another favorite).
From front to back: Edamame (soybean pods), frozen rice dessert (mochi), a barbecued chicken kebab (yakitori) that I've never tasted, tuna sashimi (another favorite).
Honey-walnut shrimp tempura rolls. The coating is crisp and delicious.
Honey-walnut shrimp tempura rolls. The coating is crisp and delicious.

Inside A'Float Sushi

The bar is a fifty foot oval, with room in the middle for cooks, counters, and supplies. The structure that surrounds them consists of a 12" wide mirrored water trough, waist high, that propels boats around the oval, outside of which is a continuous counter that seats guests - four or five on each end, about ten on each side. It is always the most populated part of the restaurant.

The rest of the restaurant consists of tables set against walls, with a few TVs up high that guests or cooks can watch. When I went a few days ago, the TV was showing newborn puppy litters and a baby goat trying to play with, but totally befuddling them. I was there in the afternoon and traffic was slow, so the cooks watched occasionally as well, while I photographed the bar and boats.

There is a small waiting area near the front door, which is also where the cashier takes your payment when you've eaten, if you are in a rush. Otherwise, you can just sit at the bar and wait until a waiter is ready to process it. I usually go up front to the cashier.

The restaurant's atmosphere is not very datelike, i.e. romantic, but it is friendly and I always see couples there, along with families. I usually go there alone, and the waiters and cooks recognize me and greet me with warmth. Tourists must like it there too, because the restaurant workers were very open to my photographing.

Sitting close to other patrons at the bar gives you a chance to chat them up, especially if you don't know what the dishes are - there is usually someone well informed about sushi. Asking someone how the boats move is another guaranteed conversation starter. Here is what I have found out about that so far.

Sushi Boat Conveying System

The boats are hooked together with chains. They are big enough to place three dishes in each base and one on the prow. The chain of boats move via a water propelling system that blows air directionally into the water from the bottom and sides of the channel.

As the water moves, it pushes the boats along fairly quickly. You need to quickly identify and grab the dishes you want off the boats as they pass by. This chain of boats is a variation of a typical way of serving Japanese sushi called kaiten zushi or "train style," where coded plates of sushi are placed on a moving conveyor belt in front of customers.

In the center of the bar, the Asian cooks look to see what's being taken. They make more to fill in empty spots and also make dishes from the menu upon request. Sushi or sashimi that hasn't been chosen after half an hour gets taken off and discarded.

The time of day you go is important. Because the cooks are committed to keeping the dishes fresh they don't fill up all the boats, if there are only a few customers. If there aren't many customers, then be prepared to order what you want from the placemat menu, instead of just waiting for something interesting to drift by.

Main Types of Sushi

There are several types of sushi served on the boats - many of them Western rather than traditional Japanese style - but most of them tasty.

Nigiri Sushi - This type has a slab of fish or egg tied onto a bed of soured, pressed rice with a strip of seaweed. Sometimes the fish is just laid on top. All rice used in sushi is soured with vinegar (good for fermentation and preservation as well). In fact, sushi itself means "sour-tasting." Nigiri means "hand-formed."

Maki Sushi - What we know as sushi rolls. Fermented rice is pressed onto a long strip of nori seaweed, topped with a string of vegetables and/or raw meat, rolled to enclosed the string in the center, then sliced down the roll to created small rolls we know as sushi rolls. Includes the Western style uramaki or "inside out roll" with the rice on the outside and some kind of light, fried coating or sesame seeds.

Sashimi - This is small slabs of raw fish served by itself, with a side of shredded turnips and a leaf of something like mint. This is especially tasty when the fish is really fresh!

How well do you like sushi?

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of sushi

Sushi - Good, Healthy, Type A Food

I first became interested in sushi as a food type when I was looking for restaurants that served really healthy food. I was experimenting with the blood type diet, at the time, and couldn't find many restaurants that served anything but Blood Type O food - meat, potatoes, tomatoes, pasta, cheese, peppers.

My body is Blood Type A, which prefers fresh food to cooked, green salads, rice, fish, and whole nuts and grains. Sushi is a perfect diet for Blood Type A's. Of course, because my body loved it, so did my taste buds. Once I got over the unique smell of fresh fish, I actually began to revel in it.

How Fresh is the Sushi?

Sushi tastes incredible when its fish is fresh and mediocre when it is not. I decided to find out when different types of fish could be considered at their freshest, assuming that fishing seasons must play a role. The chart below shows common sushi fish and the season/s in which they are best eaten.

Seasonal Sushi

Fish
Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall
Red Snapper
 
 
x
 
Salmon
 
 
x
x
Sea Bass
 
 
x
 
Squid
 
x
x
 
Yellowtail
x
 
 
 
Shellfish
x
x
x
x
Shrimp
x
x
x
x
Tuna
x
x
x
x
Clam
x
 
 
 
Note - The following fish populations are being destroyed, due to overfishing for sushi. Please do not eat them: Eel (unagi), dolphin, whale, bluefin tuna (hon- or kuro-maguro).
Here are five of the six different styles of plates. Their corresponding prices are listed at the bottom of the placement menu (below).
Here are five of the six different styles of plates. Their corresponding prices are listed at the bottom of the placement menu (below).
The customer next to me arranged their plates by price when they were finished. This makes it easier to calculate totals.
The customer next to me arranged their plates by price when they were finished. This makes it easier to calculate totals. | Source

Sushi Menu & Prices

The restaurant's menu is printed on green paper and used as a placemat, so each setting has its own disposable menu. At the bottom of the menu there are photos of the plates with different patterns and colors, along with prices overprinted on them. Dishes are listed above, organized by price.

As with other sushi conveyor belt systems, the pricing for each dish is determined by the type of plate the food sits on. Once a customer has memorized which price goes with which plate, it's easy to add up how much you're spending as you grab plates off the conveyor boats.

The cooks make sure they balance the types of dishes they make by price, knowing how much the average customer wants to pay at what time of day. On "date nights" they make more of the higher priced dishes. On a weekday in the afternoon, when traffic is slow, they make more of the lower priced dishes.

The most I have ever paid for a meal was $27, but I'm fairly conservative. Prices range from $1.98 per plate to $6.15 for the really great dishes, and you can also purchase green tea or sake, or a Japanese beer to drink.

Restaurant Review

Everyone ranks restaurants according to their own priorities and what they were looking for when they went in. An interesting restaurant will always get a higher ranking with me. Good food gets a high ranking too. Ambience also, but the importance of each varies, depending on what other factors are present. This restaurant has good food, though not always the best. Its lower prices make up for it. What really does it for me is the boats.

Quality:
Great
Varies
Could Be Better
Interesting restaurant
x
 
 
Food quality
 
x (seasonal)
 
Service
x (bar)
 
x (tables)
Comparative prices
x
 
 
Ambience
x (bar)
 
x (tables)
Popularity
 
x (time of day)
 
In general, this restaurant could be considered successful and popular. It's located in a high-cost area of downtown Pasadena and has been there for a long time. During peak hours there is often a line waiting.

Restaurant & Parking Locations

show route and directions
A marker87 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA -
87 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91105, USA
[get directions]

A'Float Sushi Restaurant

B marker30 E Union St, Pasadena, CA -
30 E Union St, Pasadena, CA 91103, USA
[get directions]

Parking garage

C marker33 E Green St, Pasadena, CA -
33 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91105, USA
[get directions]

Parking garage - 90 minutes free.

Location in Old Town Pasadena

Old Town is the historic district of Pasadena that houses big, beautiful, refurbished buildings and stores with old architecture, along with great restaurants. Often considered the "real downtown," it is popular with tourists and residents alike. The area is pedestrian-friendly, with many of the crosswalks on Colorado Blvd. stopping traffic entirely, while pedestrians cross every which way.

A'Float Sushi is located right on Colorado Blvd., just east of such a crosswalk at Raymond Ave. Some patrons of A'Float Sushi have complained in online reviews about having a hard time finding parking, but there is actually a lot of parking within easy walking distance. The map on the right shows two garages that my visitors use when they come here. The Green St. garage is free for the first hour and a half.

More by this Author


Comments 25 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Well my friend, I don't eat sushi, but this is as good a review as I have seen this month. Great job!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

This review makes me want to make the drive to Pasadena to try out the sushi! An in-depth review and great sushi information. The spicy salmon roll and tuna nigiri look divine! I have never seen floating sushi. What a fun dining experience! Voted up, useful and awesome.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for sharing this eating experience with us.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

Come on up, lindacee! Let me know when and I'll take you there. :D

Mhatter99, I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for reading.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

Thanks billybuc - Have yourself a California Roll on me! ;)


greeneryday profile image

greeneryday 4 years ago from Some tropical country

Very informative hub about sushi, and the bar looks amazing too, I think you share the same passion as I am in Japanese dish, well done for your work to put everything together. Voted up and more!


theclevercat profile image

theclevercat 4 years ago from Massachusetts

I love the seasonal sushi table. Great job and congrats on the contest win!


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

I won a contest? Cool. I'd better check it out!


CarlySullens profile image

CarlySullens 4 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

Congratulations on your win. This is a great hub and I love to eat sushi. I think the conveyor belt boat is really cool.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

I love sushi and this is an interesting take on the sushi bar. Rated up and interesting! Congratulations on your win-well written with good supporting photos. :)


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

Thanks to both of you. It's great meeting other sushi lovers.


renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario

I love sushi!!! I don't live anywhere near this place being in Canada, but it looks fantastic!


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

renegadetory - Do they have sushi in Canada? (jk)


renegadetory profile image

renegadetory 4 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario

Too many sushi places here in Ottawa, all of them over-priced an most of them sub-par!


leahlefler profile image

leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

I have to try this restaurant the next time I'm out in California! I've never been to a sushi restaurant with a conveyor system - that is just way cool.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

What an interesting concept for serving a meal! I love the sound of the boat system. Thanks for sharing all the useful details, watergeek, and congratulations on a well-deserved contest win!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Yay, you won! I knew this one was a winner, hee hee. Let's toast with some saki! (I love saki). :) Congratulations.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 4 years ago Author

Thanks everyone. Too bad we're not all together down here. We could go have some saki to celebrate!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Oh yeah! Sweet :) Remind me to tell you the story of my saki episode...


greatstuff profile image

greatstuff 4 years ago from Malaysia

Congratulation on winning the restaurant review section. Well done. I love to eat sushi and the floating and moving sushi restaurants are very popular nowadays. Your review will probably increase the popularity level even higher!


Turtlewoman profile image

Turtlewoman 3 years ago from California

Oh my goodness gracious, AFLOAT Sushi was MY FAVORITE sushi joint in southern Ca. I used to drive all the way from Fullerton with friends to eat here and hang out at the bar down the street. We have so many good memories of the place. The sushi was great. Stacking plates and watching the little boats float by...ah, I miss it. You've written a stellar review and I can see why this hub won! :-)


watergeek profile image

watergeek 3 years ago Author

OK, now I want to go eat there again - haven't been since I wrote this hub. Thanks for your comments and the mutual love of sushi! Maybe we'll run into each other there sometime, Turtlewoman.


Naomi Imatome-Yun profile image

Naomi Imatome-Yun 3 years ago

Love kaiten-zushi! The kids always love it. Daichan in LA also has the conveyor belt.

http://www.sushiinlosangeles.com


Lyricalvibes profile image

Lyricalvibes 3 years ago from Orange County, CA.

great job ! and this sushi joint is really good, and hanging around old town Pasadena is a plus also!


watergeek profile image

watergeek 3 years ago Author

For that matter, if you're going to hang around Old Town, try stopping by the frozen yogurt place down the street from AFloat Sushi. They've got boucoup flavors. You can mix 'n match and it makes a great dessert . . . although I confess, if I've had hot saki with my sushi I don't feel like anything more. (lol)

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