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Spicy sushi rolls getting too....spicy

I've had this bizarre and re-occuring incident recently when visiting sushi restaurants, in that the spiciness of the sushi rolls have been getting increasingly, well, spicy.

Previously, spicy rolls and their "sauce" of Sriracha (sp) and mayo were a nice light orange, but they are getting redder and redder. And it's not just at one sushi joint, but at many! I've been eating sushi at a whole variety of places, all over LA and the Valley, and having to leave my precious tuna rolls behind. :( This is from a sushi lover of many, many years, and only recently has this become an issue.

Has anyone else noticed? Any idea behind this phenomenon? Spicy tuna, spicy scallop, whatever - is it just me and my fellow diners or is anyone else experiencing increasing mouth burn?

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    1. I don't know, but please don't just leave them behind! If you're wanting to get rid of them and you'll be passing through Pasadena, I'll give you my address...

      1. Ciaoxtina, you're asking for the wrong stuff, in my opinion.

        Sushi bars may add one of two things to make rolls "spicy":

        1) The Sriracha sauce you refer to.

        2) Chili oil.

        To me, #1 tastes like cheap, spicy Japanese catsup. It's not only too spicy, but it has other flavors (other than just adding spice), which to me, overpowers and masks the flavor of everything it comes into contact with.

        Chili oil, on the other hand, is a tad less spicy. However, it's just plain oil with red chili pepper fused into it, so all you get is a nice clean, not overpowering flavor that compliments the flavors rather than mask them.

        Problem is, chili oil is more expensive, so most places use the Srirachi crap. I love ordering my rolls spicy, and I won't go to a bar that uses the crummy stuff, and I only go to bars that serve the good chili oil.

        Also, some believe that you shouldn't order rolls spicy, as you may tend to receive some not-so-fresh fish in there that can be masked by making spicy. Again, if you know your sushi place, good quality places won't do that, they use the same fish regardless. The places I go don't do that (yes I know for a fact), if your's does, you should consider finding a new sushi haunt!

        Anyone else care to chime in on such a yummy topic?

        GKinSO

        11 Replies
        1. re: GK in SO

          So I'm not the only person who prefers chili oil! Tatsuki in Woodland Hills uses a a sesame based chili oil that is out of this world, and I have yet to have a better spicy tuna roll. There is a smoky flavor to the oil with just the right amount of kick.

          Moose

          1. re: Moose

            Moose, I'm right there with you! I thought I was the only one too. I will only frequent bars that use chili oil as their "spicy" instead of the other stuff.

            Where is Tatsuki? What's good there? Do tell!

            P.S. One time I had sushi in the only sushi bar in Fallbrook, CA (down by San Diego). One of the sushi chefs (I forget his name) was serious about his chili oil--he made it himself, and it was fantastic!

            1. re: GK in SO

              GK,

              Here's the 411 on Tatsuki:

              21630 Ventura Blvd
              Woodland Hills, CA 91364

              Besides an exceptional spicy tuna roll, everything I've had there is great! miso soup, sunumono, fantastic light & crispy shrimp tempura. As for the sushi, they have lots of original rolls and sashimi configurations, two of my faves are the firecracker roll, and the thai cilantro sashimi. Both spicy, and with lots of chili oil. :)

              Maybe you'll post a review?

              Moose

              1. re: Moose

                Wow, Moose, thanks for the heads up about this place. Sounds right up my alley as far as sushi, but I'm in Sherman Oaks so I defintely will check it out but not as soon as I'd like. I'll sure post a review and we'll compare notes!

                Any particular chef to sit by at the bar, or is a table OK too? Some places have less than wonderful chefs making stuff for tables and to go.

                1. re: GK in SO

                  GK,

                  Tatsuki is almost a hole in the wall, with a small sushi bar that seats around 12 or so. There's a few tables in the back, so it's not a big place. All the chefs are good, so I don't have a specific one to recommend, and have had equally good food at the bar and tables. I often will request a side of chili oil in case I need to kick up one of the spicy dishes a notch...

                  Moose

              2. re: GK in SO

                Is that the sushi bar in the 'fix -it' center in Fallbrook? Wow- making his own rayu -- I gotta check this out. Please reveal! When was the last time you dined there? Sushi chef's name?

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  Kare, I don't recall what else was in the shopping center, but it was definitely in a shopping center/strip mall kind of thing. Also, I was told it was the only sushi bar in town (but, it was also surprisingly good!).

                  I last dined there around 4-5 years ago, and I don't quite remember the guy's name. I want to say something that sounds like "hero" with the H being silent, but I could be mistaken.

                  Are you in the Fallbrook area often? I used to be down there on business frequently, but alas, my firm lost that client, and my chili oil along with it!

                  GKinSO

                  1. re: GK in SO

                    Gk,
                    I live in neighboring Temecula - I have to thank you for the tip. I will definitely check this out - crossing my fingers - the chef still works there.

                    If you have any other tips for the general area - they would be most gratefully appreciated and utilized!

                    Best Regards.

                    1. re: kare_raisu

                      Kare, yes, please let me know about the chili oil...I'm really curious now too! I remember that his chili oil still had specks of the actual red chilis in it, as opposed to the clear (filtered?) bottled oil you usually get...I'm drooling now....

                      Alas, this was the only memorable restaurant I remember. It was so good that I ate there almost every night that we didn't eat in one of the many less-than-wonderful restos in that area.

                      But again, it's been several years, so surely there's bound to be something worthwhile?

                      Any other Temecula hounds who can help Kare out?

              3. re: Moose

                I agree with you Tatsuki has the best spicy tuna rolls, that chili oil is fabulous. Oh and I love the Gorgeous Albacore roll as well, it's amazing. Was there just a few weeks ago, I think it's a little bit south east of Topanga on Ventura Blvd if I remember correctly. It's not in a strip mall, it's a small restaurant right on a corner.

                1. re: davinagr

                  You DO remember correctly: it is on the South side of Ventura Blvd., and on a corner. It is quite visible, and NOT in a strip mall.

            2. Perhaps the spice compensates for the lack of quality and/or quantity, yet your tongue tingles and you know that you just ate *something.*

              6 Replies
              1. re: liu

                Oh no no, my friend Liu. That again is why I prefer the chili oil, which compliments the fish flavor, not sets my mouth on fire. I can, as I'm sure can others, still taste if the fish used is fresh or not when eating with chili oil.

                Believe me, I can still taste if something's fishy or not.

                1. re: GK in SO

                  Seriously, GK in SO - I do agree. I think it is pretty difficult to disguise "bad" fish. But it is a delicate balance of fish-to-heat that differentiates a good spicy roll from a great one! I like the heat, but I also really like to taste the fish.

                  1. re: liu

                    Liu, you are ever so right, and again for my broken record, why the chili oil is sooooo much better than the catsup stuff. I'm curious, do you also prefer chili oil over Srichachi?

                    1. re: GK in SO

                      Chili oil is so much better!

                      Srichachi brings a strong flavor of its own that really overpowers the fish. Spicy mayo changes the entire consistency and makes the roof of my mouth slimy.

                      Where is the best spicy tuna or scallops you know, GK in SO?

                      1. re: liu

                        OK, great, between you, me and Moose, we seem to be leading an army of chili oil lovers "coming out"!! LOL.

                        To your message, most places that use chili oil still will combine it with some kind of mayo, which I also can't stand, even though I understand it adds moisture to bind the roll together.

                        I always ask for mine (especially in new places where I don't know the chefs' tendencies) light or very light on the mayo.

                        Spicy tuna - the best I ever tasted was at Asakuma, on Wilshire in Brentwood. I actually don't order this much, since the mercury info on tuna came out.

                        Spicy scallops - Brothers Sushi in WH is the best, now that Enshino closed down. Sushi House of Taka is also good, as is Iroha in Studio City (especially if Jose is the chef). Also, a good place will use the big sea scallops for their scallop items, but I've seen some places (the same places that use the Srirachi crap, by some strange co-winky-dink) that actually use the tiny bay scallops.

                        1. re: GK in SO

                          GK,

                          I recently tried Asakuma's spicy tuna roll, and it was as close to Tatskuki as I've had. Still, not nearly as good, as Tatsuki's roll has rice on the outside with sesame seeds, not straight up seaweed like most rolls.

                          Tatsuki is well worth the drive, and my SO who is a total sushi freak has declared it the best sushi place she's been to. I agree, but until I tried this place wasn't as keen on sushi, and I've been to a number of popular places, including the Hump.

                          Moose

              2. I got kind of put off spicy rolls from the idea that it's used to mask inferior fish... I do the wasabi thing instead. I'll even mix wasabi into my crab mixture when making my own california rolls.

                1. Oh my gosh, I was just discussing this with a friend. I am happy to learn about the difference between these 2 methods of adding spice to rolls. Will definitely be asking which method is used before I order! Takao on San Vicente has good spice, must be chili oil.

                  1. Yeah, like others have said, the extra spiciness is to better complement the vintage of the fish.

                    1. Hmm, thanks for the tip on the chili oil. I definitely don't go anywhere that has crappy, or less than fresh fish, and for the most part I order the basic sushi and not rolls. But every so often, the spicy scallop hand roll entices me over, and it's a bit of a crapshoot. I wonder if the difference is from sushi bars using the chili oil first and then the Sriracha? I'll be asking from now on!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ciaoxtina

                        I don't think I've ever seen a place use both the chili oil + Sriracha, it's usually one or the other.

                        1. re: GK in SO

                          Oh, I meant maybe first using the chili oil, and then because it was too expensive switching to the Sriracha?

                          Everyone has been so super helpful and informative...but I'm starting to wonder if maybe my tastebuds are off!?!? Actually, that would mean the same for all my dining companions. I'm sticking to a "spicier (tuna) roll" conspiracy for now. Heh heh.