Though they can be used anywhere with counter space and cold foods to display, these long refrigerated displays have become as much a mainstay in restaurants that serve sushi as the little waving maneki-neko. They're great for this purpose not only because they provide a long, low display, but also because they typically have cold plate technology, which means the cool air is focused on the food being held. That's especially important with sushi because it's bite-sized food, so it wouldn't get the benefit of a cooling effect of a forced air system in a taller cabinet.
If you need some help deciding which of these units might be perfect for your sushi bar or Asian fusion joint , read on to learn about some of the key details you should consider.
Deciding on a Width
This is likely the first choice you should make and it will likely also be the easiest. What might be called length for other equipment is called width on these units because they sit on a counter and are faced from the long sides by the users and customers. They range from 47- to 87-inches wide, offering plenty of room to display your ingredients.
If you're buying a unit to fit an existing countertop, then you'll already know how much room you have for it. If you're custom-building a space for it or if you're just browsing to get an idea for what's available, keep in mind that the full measurement won't be available for display. That's because some portion of that width – typically about 14 or 15 inches – will be taken up by the refrigeration system.
Picking a Location for the Refrigeration System
These units will have a compressor, which includes most of the cooling components, located on either the left or right. Which end you pick should mostly be guided by which will have the best air circulation around it.
Louvered vents on the outside of the unit will allow the refrigeration system to bring in and expel air for cooling the condenser coils. The more free space around those open areas, the easier it will be for the fans to move that air, which means your unit will run more efficiently.
If you'll be mounting a sushi case against a wall or other fixture, be sure you purchase one with the compressor on the opposite side of the unit. You should also consider where your customers will sit and where your workers will be in relation to the unit. If your seating will be to the right of the unit, opt for a left-mounted compressor. If your register is to the left of the display, you'll want to look at right-mounted compressors or you might end up with a steaming-mad cashier.
If your chef will do front-of-house show cooking or you'll have other hot equipment near the case, make sure the compressor is mounted away from that area. Additionally, if the air on one side of the cabinet could be turbulent – for instance, because of a fan or door opening – the system will likely work more efficiently if the compressor is away from that space.
Drain Location Matters, Too
To accommodate spills and condensation from the refrigeration system, and to make cleaning easier, these units all have a trough to catch liquids inside the case and a drain to evacuate them all. The drain is regulated by the user, so you don't have to worry about having a bucket full of liquid in the way. It also means you can easily keep your case clean, using soapy water for regular cleanings and to take care of spills, then rinsing with clean water, with all of it draining out of the unit.
Another feature to consider in cleanability is the number of food plates in the bottom of the unit and whether they are removable. These aren't the types of plates you serve on, but rather the flat surfaces that hold your offerings in the cooler. If they're removable, they will be much easier to clean and to clean under. The number of them also lets you know how easy cleaning will be, because it will likely mean you have to remove only a small section to take care of spills, rather than pulling out a larger and more unwieldy portion.