Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Aug 20, 2006 02:26 AM

I like the occasional California roll ...

Not much of a thread topic, I know.

But I read a lot of threads about sushi experiences that brag that such and such a restaurant won't make a California roll.

And I just wanted to say that, while I have an appreciation of the finer things to eat during sushi meal -- well, some of them, anyway -- I do enjoy the occasional California roll and, quite frankly, many other non-traditional sushi concoctions. (Hamasaku, in Los Angeles, is really enjoyable to me and they seem to feature a lot of different rolls and that sort of thing).

Anyways, I'm not asserting that California rolls are the height of sushi dining nor am I claiming they are an essential element in a top sushi meal.

But I do like them, once in a while.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. And I like grilled peanut butter and cheese sandwiches, and who is to say me nay?

    This here online community contains Chowhounds of many stripes. Most of us are bonafide purists about SOMETHING, whether it's barbecue or Hawaiian shave ice, but aside from that we just like to eat. And some of us frequent restaurants whose chefs cook whatever sells, and others whose personnel see themselves as the guardians of a sacred, incorruptible cuisine. And both of those things, from the small-"c" catholic Chowish standpoint, are perfectly OK.

    Short version: if you like California rolls, go where the good ones are made and tell us about them. If you don't, then go to the places that refuse to make'em and tell us about that.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        Very well said. Sometimes we loose sight of the ultimate goal of this board-good food in all forms.

        1. re: Will Owen

          okay, I'll bite.

          Sushi Boat Town, south San Jose/Blossom Hill/101 area.

          They make killer Rock 'n Rolls with jalepeno alongside the traditional fillings. Outrageously good. and HOT. I dream about these things.

        2. i like the occasional california roll too.

          sometimes it's difficult to discern the difference between bad taste and personal taste. to me it seems like it's an issue that shouldn't really be judged by others in the first place.

          1 Reply
          1. re: bijoux16

            I don't think there is a difference between bad taste and personal taste. My tastes have changed over the years, but I still find myself with a hankering for a McDonald's cheeseburger every few months. There's no objective standard we have to meet here, and really, the only one tasting your food is you, so you might as well figure out what you like.

          2. A place near me makes "surf and turf" sushi, being rare filet mignon and cooked lobster. Don't know if it's "sushi", but I LOVE it! (Although I usually get some more authentic rolls at the same time).

            1. This is not a commentary on you or anybody else liking anything that they want to like. Of course, we're all entitled to our own palates without judgement from others, and what you like is what you like. This is just an attempt to describe the view from the other side of the mirror - please take it with a large grain of Kosher salt...

              But my perspective is from one that was born and raised in Japan. I presume that some others that grew up in other countries or enclaves and familes where their eating habits revolved around specific ethnic foods, will say the same kind of thing.

              Watching others "pervert" the foods you grew up with so that it may be more palatable to them, is insulting - not dearly, and not so that it can't be understood or forgiven, but nevertheless, it is a shock to your system and a slap in the face of your culture. The thing I wonder about the most, is why someone would even bother to try something extraordinary, if they're not willing to take the time to learn to enjoy the depths and nuances of the actual item? Is this some "chic" thing that all the "in" people must show their lock-step concurrence with?

              So what's my beef? Why should I care if someplace serves philadelphia and california rolls? Well - for one - there are now Sushi places on every street corner. The very meaning of real sushi and the real sushi experience is now watered down or just plain gone. These Chinese restaurant sushi places have taken over to the point that even the real sushi places have to do the Americanized sushi bit to stay in business. Might as well go to Hong Kong Sails and have a pu-pu platter and some chop suey with "crispy noodles", and call it Chinese - and get that wonderful california roll on the side.

              Yes - I'm aware that food changes. All foods evolve over time, and thank goodness - without that evolution, we'd still all be eating berries and raw beast. But not all change is good, and some change should not be tolerated. California roll: some sort of local futomaki experiment gone bad, to include the truly wonderful fattiness of avocado and the supreme innocuousness of surimi...

              If you're from Mexico, and all you hear about is that wonderful Mexican food at Taco Bell, you feel ill. If someone comes up to me and says, oh their 6-year old just loves sushi, and especially that funny roll with the CRAB MEAT and the rice on the outside (how do they do that?!)... EEH! EEH! EEH! EEH!

              12 Replies
              1. re: applehome

                I feel the same way. Even though I was born and raised in the U.S., my father's family moved here from Italy in the 40's. That means they were not part of the wave that Americanized Italian food into cheese steaks, chicken parm, italian heros, etc. not to mention a million other offenses. I hated that stuff being forced upon me growing up (from friends, neighbors etc.) as "italian" food. It was gross, and nothing like what my family made, except that back then I couldn't articulate how it was different.

                1. re: applehome

                  I get how you feel, but I think people need something they relate to in order to understand. I'm from Buffalo, and what passes for Buffalo wings in most of the country -- breaded, or baked, or with some pasty barbecue sauce on it and served with ranch dressing, not blue cheese -- is an insult to a very simple yet in many ways perfect dish. I suppose the same goes for Katsu curry -- Japanese style curry is a thing unto itself, with little relationship to Indian or SE Asian curry (but at least it tastes good). On the other hand, you can't stop the dumbing down of these foods -- but you can make it a point to search out the real deal. That's not a chowhound snob thing -- you can like the taste of inauthentic foods. But as folks who think good food is worth preserving, we shouldn't let the authentic places die out. Otherwise, the only place you'll see certain dishes is in a history book.

                  1. re: applehome

                    First off, I perfer traditional sushi to California Rolls and their ilk, but I still find them tasty. :)

                    Anyway, I know where you are coming from. I often feel the same way about the mexican food I grew up eating. However, I would never say that that a "Mission Burrito" is insulting to my heritage (I'd just say that it's gross ;))because it is being called what it is... a burrito done in the Mission (SF)Style. Yes, people consider it mexican food, but by virtue of it's unique name, people also consider it as a subset of it.

                    The same thing with a California roll, it's a subset of Sushi. I doubt that even the most uncultured americans (And I worked with and fed them for six years) would consider it the DEFINITION of Sushi. It's a California Roll... and is known as such... Now, if people were calling it a "Toro Roll", then THAT would be insulting (To everyone!) and "WRONG".


                    1. re: Dommy

                      Burritos and wheat tortillas came from the north anyway (what is now US), so although they are now available in Mexico, it's wrong to call them Mexican food. So if we could keep california rolls from being called sushi, that would be fine with me. Maybe we can start using the term cal-sushi to differentiate it from the real thing.

                      The evolution of food through migration has always been a general factor. But the real concern is the much more recent mass marketing and fast food movement in the US - which creates Macdonalds from hamburgers, Olive Gardens from American/Italian, PF Chang from American/Chinese, and of course, Taco Bell from Tejano or Tex-mex.

                      Trolley says, below: "i don't think california rolls are taking over and replacing traditional sushi. now that would be a very big problem..."

                      In fact, this is what is happening. I'm using california roll as the symbol of the phenomenon - but the problem is that a lousy version, americanized in the worst way, (price, ease of manufacture, removal of difficult to understand cultural aspects - ie, commoditized), is being accepted as the norm for what we as Americans call the sushi experience.

                      Foods and cultures that are alien to us ought to be be difficult to understand. They ought to force us to do some work, to comprehend the real differences, to appreciate the food as it is appreciated by the originators with the respect it deserves.

                      Globalization means accessibility - but it doesn't have to mean simplification or adaptation to the point where the original experience is lost or disrespected. The one california roll isn't so terrible. But it certainly opened up the slippery slopes, which we've now progressed way down upon, where substances like tuna from a can, spicy mayo, and cream cheese, all lurk - in places with big signs flashing sushi - come get your wonderful sushi!

                      1. re: applehome

                        we are all entitled to our opinions. but i truly don't think the california roll is taking over sushi since there happens to be so many purists especially when it comes to sushi. i understand the commoditization issues and changing form or rather getting diluted to appeal to the masses is happening to some of most beloved treasures. it happens in apparel and pretty much most industries which offer a consumed product.

                        certain foods are now much more accessible because of growth. and i find that to be a good thing, especially for sushi. when i first used to visit the US from japan in the late 70's there were barely any sushi restaurants. even in the best of them the fish was sometimes sub par b/c most of the fish was flown in from japan. there were the "good days" when my family would go to our local japanese restaurant where it catered to mainly japanese people. when i moved here to come to school people treated me like i was an alien for eating raw fish. that was then...

                        as a native japanese person i'm ok with americans and other non-japanese people having a california roll and thinking it's a sublime experience b/c 20 yrs ago that wouldn't have been possible. those people would have laughed at me. also b/c of competition all the really good sushi restaurants have to truly be on their p's and q's otherwise they can potentially lose customers. i have many friends who tried a california roll at first then eventually moved on to "real sushi" now many of them are total sushi snobs.
                        so long response, but i believe as long as there are purists who preserve the traditions, like the chef at nozawa and sushi gen here in LA, the real thing won't be lost. just as couture in apparel still exists and hasn't been taken over by old navy, i think sushi and other forms of food will be just fine.

                        oh, btw, in japan, for many of us, sushi is like party food. when it's your birthday you might get a big tray and everyone will eat it with their fingers. it can be pretty casual affair. we're not all bowing and declaring to commit seppuku if the sushi is not up to standard ;) relax! it's just food after all.

                        1. re: trolley

                          "relax! it's just food after all"

                          Whoo hoo! Agreed! :)


                          1. re: trolley

                            I do definitely think that where you are (in the US) makes a difference. CA, and especially LA, where there is competition for good sushi, where there are izakaya's and plenty of Japanese salaryman around to keep them going, is one thing. NYC has a lot of americanized junk, but there are plenty of authentic Japanese places and people that know the difference. There are still a lot of Japanese salaryman around - although certainly not like in the heyday of the 80's and early 90's.

                            Unfortunately, here in the burbs of Boston, we have sushi served in every American/Chinese restaurant - it's pretty much all junk, and it's very popular.

                            We moved here in the early 60's. My mother had to have her sisters in Yokosuka send her everything from ocha to wakame. I'm most certainly much happier now that all these ingredients are readily available, and that decent Japanese food, sushi and otherwise, is available in the major metropolitan areas. Nevertheless, I'm afraid that the popularization of sushi (outside of LA and NYC) could be it's downfall - and I definitely do feel that the comparison to Taco Bell is apt - that's the level that the local burb sushi has sunk to.

                            Sushi is party food sometimes. Order a big plate and everybody dig in. But for going out, it's more formal. For some it is about the local after work izakaya for some really unique items and sake (generically). One item that is important for me is to speak the language of sushi with the sushiya - it ought to be Japanese, but doesn't have to be. I know at least one outstanding American sushi chef who learned his stuff from years of apprenticing with a Japanese master - and as time goes on there will be more and more gaijin able to make good sushi. The issue, to me, is that the personal relationship with the sushiya is part of the best sushi experiences. I've walked into American/Chinese places where generic asians, who speak neither Japanese nor English, are busy laying pre-cut fish on pre-made nigiri rice balls, and where your only choice is to use the now-ubiquitous pencil and form. If that's not Taco Bell, I don't know what is. And if we shouldn't worry about that form of sushi overwhelming the real thing, then why are we chowhounds? Is it our stated goal to enjoy party sushi, and as long as we have that, we should be happy? If the general American public is happy with Olive Garden and American/Chinese sushi, what chance does a real chef have to open up a place that charges more and offers items that are more difficult to understand and like?

                            I know that there are plenty of fast food sushi places in Japan, as well. I went to one of those "train" places on my last trip. But my foodie uncle took me to a special place that specializes in lobster and crab sashimi, and some really intricate and unique sushi. This wasn't in Tokyo or within the metropolis, but out in the country. As long as these places exist, and people who value what they represent are around, great sushi is safe - obviously, in Japan it's safe. I only hope that keeping great sushi going in LA and NYC is going to be good enough for us, because the rest of America is running as fast as it can to their local mcsushi.

                            1. re: applehome

                              Since we're being a bit serious here - I appreciate your comments but please don't assume that LA and NYC are the only places to get "real" sushi (or anything else for that matter). Believe it or not, here in Atlanta we have at least a few places that serve very traditional, very well regarded sushi.

                          2. re: applehome

                            I don't thinkk anyone who eats sushi would think of a California Roll as sushi. Sushi is a pat of seasoned rice with a piece of sashimi on it. California Roll maki (nori maki or whatever it get gets called) is like calzone instead of pizza. Maki is vinegared rice and veggies or fish, California Roll is usually a white fleshed fish, and seaweed paper.
                            The few places that serve Dungeness Cailifornia Roll in season are good but i personally don't want to waste my sushi restaurant experience with King Crab or Krab.

                          3. re: Dommy

                            woo hoo dommy! now let's meet and go to the taco bell drive -thru...or maybe not. ok, i'm now going overboard ;)

                            1. re: trolley

                              LOL! Actually, I'm still fighting the craving for that darn crunch wrap EVERYDAY...



                          4. re: applehome

                            My short response to that would be that there are two classes of food (1) the real thing and (2) the other, sometimes satisfying alternative. They are usually completely unrelated and shouldn't be compared. For example, if I want really good Italian food, I go to my local family owned Trattoria where I know they know what they are doing. If I am hung over and I feel like something to satisfy my craving, I might open a can of Spaghetti-Os. Key here is that the Spaghetti-Os are not the same class of food as the Italian Trattoria and shouldn't be compared to each other. But every once in a while the Spaghetti-Os serve their purpose. You can use the same analogy with "authentic sushi" and california rolls. Shouldn't be compared.

                          5. My 2 cents:

                            Being from Hong Kong, I have a high expectation of Cantonese food should be. However, I'm not above indulging in sesame chicken or lemon chicken ocassionally. I think I have come to term with people often mislabeling food, be it from any culture. Eliza's for example, claims to be Mandarin cuisine. I love the place and have taken friends there. But I would always tell them that the food is really more Chinese/Califorian fusion.

                            I understand people from different regions like things a certain way and want to keep things pure. However, one needs to understand that not everyone would like what's authentic. I don't like wasabi, but love sushi (no, I don't really care for California roll, sorry....). Does that mean I shouldn't eat sushi at all? Also, even though California roll isn't authentic, it does help introduce a cuisine to someone who are not familiar with sushi. The 6 year old who loves California roll today may grow up really enjoying the fatty tuna or sea urchin.

                            No matter which country you're in, there are restaurant that serves food from other countries. Many of those restaurants would change a traditional recipe to fit the palate of that country. Frankly, it's extrememly difficult to exactly produce the same recipe at different parts of the world, due to factors like difference in produce, weather and even water. Chinese vegetables available here often taste different than the ones in Chinese due to soil.

                            Just think about this, is Chinese food in Japan really authentic? Italian food in Australia? Soul food in California? Life is short. Eat what you enjoy.