I can remember a time when a sushi bar (literally a bar, no tables) was a niche destination (in my neck of the woods anyway) where the upscale and generally alternative crowd hung out. Nowadays of course, sushi is everywhere, from buffets to food courts to supermarkets and on everyone’s radar; it’s completely ubiquitous. However, despite this dilution into American culture, there has always been the ever-loving faithful who insist on doing sushi right.
Enter Sushipedia from Hussein Khalil. First of all, what this app is not: a list of Americanized sushi which is all rolls, mostly cooked or fried then drowned in soy sauce and wasabi (not saying that isn’t delicious mind you but it would offend the crap out of a real Japanese sushi chef). Thanfkully this is included to some degree (we Americans do love our sushi) but rather the focus here is on bringing you a guide to authentic sushi such as gooey sea urchin (uni), strips of raw fish (sashimi) and even the posionous puffer fish (fugu). The app lets you look for sushi by scanning a full index, by keyword search, by attribute search (raw, cooked etc) and by type (nigiri, temaki etc). Once you find the sushi you’re looking for you can enjoy an informative text description and a very detailed photograph. If you’re feeling brave, you can just tap ‘I’m feeling lucky’ and order whatever the app randomly chooses. A cool thing about the app is it sprinkles lots of interesting sushi lore and knowledge all around, including a ticker at the bottom of the main menu that will tell you cool things like ‘itamae’ is the proper word for a sushi chef and ’sushi’ does not mean fish but instead refers to the traditional vinegared rice often served with it. Clearly a lot of time was put into this app as it’s big on content and personal touches.
On to the gripes then which are all about interface consistency and usability. First, a convention set forth at the onset is the ability to touch and hold any particular button to get help on it. This is quite necessary for those unfamiliar with the terms yet this feature is inconsistent throughout the app and in fact only works on the main menu and contents page. On top of that, touching and holding doesn’t just give you the blurb but whisks you off to that option automatically when all you want to do is read the blurb. Also, some (but inexplicably not all) definitions of categories are contained within the category listing itself which is very unintuitive and really should follow the already-established help convention above. I’d love to see more time spent cleaning up the help system and streamlining the interface in general. Also, if you drill down to say, the sashimi category, you’re presented with authentic names such as amaebi and hirame (along with japanese) which is great but you’d have no idea this is shrimp and flounder until you bring up the full listing. A simple convention of adding a simple english word as well would go a long way to making this app easier for us gringos to use. Not to totally nit-pick but all text should be run through a spell-checker as well. Also, worth noting is this app requires you to have the 2.2.1 iPhone update but I have no idea why. I had no intention of installing 2.2.1 and meant to jump straight to the next release and there are probably others just like me. Anyway I took 1 for the team to get this review out there for you all so you’re welcome!
As far as suggestions, it might be neat to have an email function within the app so you could send someone a picture or description of a particluar sushi or just to cutely plant a bug in someone’s ear about what you want to do for dinner tonight. Also it would be great to have even more cool sushi info nuggets such as knives a real chef uses, what a ’sushi bar’ in Japan is like and just general info about the traditions and origin of sushi.
So in summary I’d say what’s offered up here will help and educate you about sushi and that’s certainly the point. I’m also compelled to say Sushipedia feels a bit overpriced in its current state but with some polish and shine would definitely rise in value.
Version reviewed – 1.0