I’ve never been shy about the fact that I’m not a big fan of crazy sushi rolls with lots of ingredients. The only rolls I’ve ever come across during my brief visits to Japan have usually been intended for takeout and generally contained a single type of fish, while Americans often think ‘the more ingredients the better’—and they love those ingredients deep fried and drowning in sauces. I don’t have a problem with chefs who make the latter, or the people who enjoy them. But when I eat sushi, I want to taste the fish and appreciate the chef’s knife skills. As a result, I usually stick with nigiri or sashimi. And Other Mama’s chef Dan Krohmer, who began his sushi career slinging wild rolls in Sacramento before serving as a sushi chef in both Japan and Masaharu Morimoto’s Philadelphia restaurant, confirms that the majority of Japanese chefs share my opinion.
“For a long time [the Japanese] thought it was a horrible form of disrespect,” he explains. But, he continues, things are starting to change, even in Japan. “I was in Japan last year,” he says. “And they come out with a quarterly book for sushi that all the chefs buy. And I opened it up and it had shrimp tempura rolls and eel with avocado rolls. It’s kind of catching on because the sushi industry is trying to look to [America] for new ideas. And they’re starting to look to us for creativity.”
OK, so much for my snobbery. I still don’t care for the concept, but as Krohmer points out, the proliferation of this trend does allow for some interesting flavor combinations. So, as a tip of my hat to everyone who enjoys this culinary art form, I’ve been doing some research to find some of the more exotic and interesting sushi rolls in town. Here’s what I found.
Tuna Mango Passion
If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t associate fruit with sushi. But it actually works quite well. The chef starts with a basic spicy tuna roll, then tops it with slices of unseasoned tuna and fresh mango. The sweetness of the fruit offers a nice contrast to the heat inside the roll, as well as adding overall freshness. $15, Zenshin in South Point, 702-797-8538, ZenshinAsianRestaurant.com.
Having steak in sushi isn’t as crazy as it sounds. At restaurants in Japan, and even some high-end spots in Las Vegas, you can often find prized A5 wagyu offered in nigiri form. Yellowtail’s offering isn’t quite that decadent. The beef on this shrimp tempura roll is filet mignon—a fairly simple twist on surf and turf. What makes it really interesting is the semisweet A1 ponzu sauce that accompanies it. $36, Yellowtail in Bellagio, 702-693-8300, YellowtailLasVegas.com.
Chop Chop Bang Bang
Blue crab is not a variety you often see in sushi preparations, and being an East Coast boy, that caught my attention immediately. The crab forms the inside of this roll, along with cucumber and tempura flakes for crunch. On the outside, the chef layers shrimp, avocado and pop rocks. The latter really don’t bring a lot of bang to the mix, though they do give you bragging rights for having the most unusual sushi ingredient in town. $19, Rice & Company in Luxor, 702-262-4774, Luxor.com.
This off-menu dish itself (shikai maki, or “square roll”) is fairly simple. The chef combines what are probably the three most popular fish in the sushi world: tuna, salmon and yellowtail. For a touch of sweetness, he adds tamago (egg custard). What makes it a real showstopper, however, is the fact that it’s square, rather than round, also making it very, very hip. Market price, Mizumi in Wynn, 702-770-3320, WynnLasVegas.com.
Masa Toro With Caviar
If you’re OK with eating blue-fin tuna (arguably the world’s best, but also endangered), there’s no better place to do it than at BarMasa. The chef flies it in daily from Japan, promising it will be on your plate within 24 hours of being taken from the water. And since you’re splurging, why not top it with caviar, for the most expensive sushi roll in town? $240, BarMasa in Aria, 877-230-2742, Aria.com.