Train and Robot Waiter in Brisbane at J-Shinsen Express

We’re fortunate enough to have some good Japanese food options in the city. I loved my experiences at both Uncle Don and Bird’s Nest. However, this time around I was drawn to J-Shinsen Express, as a friend had told me there was a train and robot waiter in Brisbane – in Indooroopilly Shopping Centre of all places. Of course, I had to check it out!

Outside J-Shinsen Express

We arrived at J-Shinsen Express on Sunday at about 2pm and it was still packed, which I thought was a good sign. After about five minutes of standing in line, we were shown our booth on the far side of the restaurant, alongside the train line of the J-Shinsen Express…

The Atmosphere

In a word, I felt my experience at the J-Shinsen Express was fast. There was a lot going on! Besides the fact that tables seemed to turn over at an alarming rate (we saw the table across from us change four times!), there were three electronic food serving activities going on around us (more on this later).

A great place to ‘self oder’

We also had an iPad on our table, so I was busy ordering for my family while trying to get shots and video of the conveyor belt, train and robot waiter in Brisbane. It felt pretty hectic! I kept missing what I thought were ‘ideal’ moments, but I had plenty of opportunities later on, as the electronics kept whirring out food to customers, who kept coming in.

Ordering from our iPad

I’m typically a fast-energy person myself, so I was enjoying the buzz of J-Shinsen Express and the challenge of capturing each moment as it whirred by. Check out my video at the end to get an idea of what I mean. Apart from the pace (which admittedly might not be so fast if you’re not photographing/filming), I also loved the wooden fish that were floating beneath the ceiling at J-Shinsen Express – a nice touch!

Love those wooden fish

The Service – A Train and Robot Waiter in Brisbane

To be honest, the electronic service is what I was really at J-Shinsen Express for, not the food. Well, we certainly weren’t disappointed in that regard, as both Olin (my son) and I agreed that our experience here was better than we expected.

Olin picking up my prawn bao from the ‘magical’ conveyor belt

Firstly, I loved the conveyor belt alongside our table that dished up food at a swift pace. The belt was a grey colour, which blended in seamlessly with the décor to make it appear food was propelled by a spell from Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There was also the J-Shinsen Express train gliding above the belt, which I think was functionally unnecessary, although it certainly added to the novelty of the place.

The J-Shinsen Express in full action

However, the star of J-Shinsen Express was our robot waiter in Brisbane, ‘Okuri’, which means ‘sending’, or ‘delivering’ in Japanese. Okuri was busy rolling around the restaurant delivering food and it took a while for me to capture the face of him/her as there was just so much going on around me!

Okuri – table service action!

It was cool seeing Okuri stop at tables, be swept clean of food and then navigate around people and corners back to the kitchen – all while blinking and smiling with that little face that lights up its UI. I know that robots are gradually becoming a commonality in 2023, but they’re still at the stage where they’re a novelty, and Olin, Nikki and I enjoyed seeing Okuri, the J-Shinsen Express and the magic conveyor belt in action. After all, this is what we came for.

Okuri on the return – look at that cute little head!

The Food

While we were here for the train and robot waiter in Brisbane, we love our food (like most folk), so it would help if it was at least reasonable. Well, reasonable it was. In fact, I really couldn’t complain about any of the food we ate at J-Shinsen Express. And while it might not have been quite up to the high standard of Uncle Don or Bird’s Nest, it was certainly enjoyable. Here’s what I had….

My miso soup was generous, warm and tasty

I started proceedings with some miso soup, as I felt I needed to hydrate. The miso soup was generously portioned for $2.50, and it was pleasantly aromatic and warming. I then tried some seared scallop nigiri, which was soft, appetising and well-paired with a mound of rice and a light dressing of some kind.

My scallop nigiri looks like it’s all roe

As my son ordered Japanese curry with tempura veg, I did him the honour of eating the veg and tofu (which he doesn’t like). This was not particularly exciting (a little dry), but not horrid either and at this point I felt I’d better make room for a few more things to do this review some justice. I therefore tried some of Nikki’s kingfish nigiri, which was tender and tastefully put together, even though it didn’t arrive via our robot waiter in Brisbane.

My son’s Japanese curry with tofu and tempura veg
Nikki’s kingfish nigiri was arguably the tastiest of our experience

Finally, I had to try one more thing for this post, which arrived swiftly on the cunningly camouflaged conveyor belt – the prawn bao. I can’t remember having bao before, but with this one, I loved its size – not too big nor too expensive – one of those great tack-ons at the end of your meal. The prawn was fried, crispy, cooked nicely and accompanied with fresh salad and a satisfying, stream of seafood sauce.

I’m no bao expert but I thought this was pretty decent

The Desserts

I’m not typically a dessert guy, but I was roped into this by my ever-hungry 13-year-old. Additionally, the most Japanese-style food I’ve experienced comes from the desserts and drinks – maybe because I’m more accustomed to savoury Japanese food in Australia. In short, the dessert was a novelty and it was enjoyable.

Our chocolate mochi ice cream was uber-pleasant

Our dessert – which was wheeled out by our robot waiter in Brisbane – was chocolate mochi ice cream. This is basically ice cream coated in a gelatinous goo made with rice flour, drizzled with chocolate and accompanied by a strawberry. I thought this was fun and I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be. I’ve never had mochi before and I’m now sure this won’t be my last occasion.

The Drinks

For drinks, I started with an iced lemon green tea, as I felt parched upon arrival and I thought both this and the miso soup would rehydrate me. This was certainly refreshing and I recommend it to anyone looking for a non-alcoholic beverage in the sweltering Brisbane summer (even though the shopping centre has air-conditioning).

My iced lemon green tea

Following this, I felt I had to have a celebratory beverage so I enjoyed a plum wine, which was a novelty. I’ve not had plum wine before, and again the drinks and desserts seemed more unique than the food. The plum was cool, sweetened and masking a pleasant base of alcohol. I didn’t see our robot waiter in Brisbane bring anyone drinks at J-Shinsen Express, so it seems this is a human-only service.

My plum wine

My Thoughts Overall

Probably the only negative thing I have to say about J-Shinsen Express is that human interaction is limited by the service technology. Although then again, we weren’t here to chat with people, we were here for the tech – the eponymous train, the camouflaged conveyor belt and of course the star, Okuri, our robot waiter in Brisbane.

The staff uniform looked pretty cool!

The only thing that could have dragged this review down was the food, but this was pleasantly surprising. Additionally, the themed restaurant makes J-Shinsen a great choice for families, as we really enjoyed our Sunday lunch. In all, I definitely recommend you visit the J-Shinsen Express, at least for the novelty that it provides.

A Few Fast Facts

  • J-Shinsen Express is located on level 3 of the Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, in Indooroopilly.
  • J-Shinsen Express is open from Monday to Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10:00 to 20:30; Thursday 10:00 – 21:00; and Sunday – 10:30 – 16:30. Check the J-Shinsen Express Instagram page for Christmas hours, which differ.
  • There’s plenty of parking at Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.
  • If you’re not driving, Indooroopilly train station is a five-minute walk to Indooroopilly Shopping Centre.
  • Be prepared for some fast, family-friendly action with the camouflaged conveyor belt, the train, and Okuri – your robot waiter in Brisbane!

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