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Sushi stressing me out...it's easier just to get it at the grocery

I feel like the biggest dunce ever when it comes to sushi. I usually get it at the grocery store because I can see it, read about it, etc. and choose it based on that. Typically I like rolls and like them with either tuna, salmon or crab, sometimes eels, sometimes avocado, masago ok.

Today I decided to spend the extra $$$ and get better rolls from a local sushi place. I always order it to-go because I feel less like a dunce than I do at the sushi bar. I ordered Alaskan rolls (salmon and avocado) and Seattle rolls (described as spicy tuna on top of crab). Pay $16 for the order, throw $2 in the tip jar and am on my way (not sure about the tipping amount being right, but that's yet another subject for a tipping thread on the NAF board).

I bring it back to the office and the Alaskan rolls are lovely. The Seattle rolls, however, look disgusting because there must be over a pound of spicy tuna mixture over the 8 rolls of crab. The tuna looks like something the cat hocked up and I scraped off 90% of it and left a small amount on each roll. Now I know not to order THAT roll again, but my question is...is it normal for there to be a HUGE (and I mean HUGE) amount of tuna (or other seafood) served on top of a roll?

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  1. Depends on the restaurant. Many are used to the idea that to Americans, more is better. The color is due to the Sriracha-type sauce giving the roll the 'kick". You might ask next time for a small container of "spicey sauce" on the side for dipping, and opt for a classic tuna roll instead.

    It's amazing how our visual perceptions "color" our food choices, isn't it. Ugly shades of green are what make my stomach flutter! Bright green guac only for me, please!

    2 Replies
    1. re: toodie jane

      The color is the combo of the Sriracha and the mayo -- deadly-looking combo. There are some sushi restaurants that make their spicy tuna rolls without mayo (which I vastly prefer), but I find them to be rare.

      As to the amount of tuna served on top of a roll, I have never encountered anything like that before. As some restaurants use their not-their-best fish in the spicy rolls, I'm thinking that the restaurant may had to get rid of their excess.

      I hope this experience doesn't turn you off sushi. Perhaps you need to find a better restaurant. I don't know what the sushi scene is like in Richmond, though. I remember having terrible sushi in Puerto Rico, only to be surrounded by a bunch of ex-pats raving about it because sushi was rare there.

      1. re: Miss Needle

        I don't find the spicy tuna unappealing in the roll, nor would a small amount on top of this roll have been unappetizing (and it appeared to have no mayo in it), but this was an incredible amount of it. I would guess 2 cups of the mixture at least. I had the same thought about them wanting to get rid of excess tuna.

    2. I like sushi a lot, thought I know there's a lot of types I haven't experiemented with. But I live far away from all sushi restaurants. So I make it myself and I think it's pretty successful. I found good videos online to teach me. I like my own sushi and I can eat it more often because I make it.


      1. I'm no expert, but I worked at a sushi restaurant with Japanese sushi chefs of different degrees of proficiency, (average to extremely high). They generally did not do this over-serving, but did mention that the spicy tuna mixture is typically not the highest grade of tuna - thus the mincing and addition of spicy or sriracha sauce. So, your chef may be overly generous with it unless you indicate otherwise. I'd encourage you to go more frequently and eat in at the bar in front of your favorite itamae. Don't be intimidated, every one that I ever worked with liked to get to know their patrons and tailor sushi to their taste.

        1. A lot of specialty rolls are gigantic. They usually have more grandiose names (ie, the Dragon-Samurai roll). Your seattle roll sounds like that, just with the amount of 'stuff' in and on it.

          I'd go for something more like your alaskan rolls, or maybe ask ahead of time how big the rolls are.

          1 Reply
          1. re: yumcha

            The rolls were a normal size (the same size as the salmon ones) it was just the tuna (the quantity and appearance) that made it both unappetizing and hard to eat (was glad I was at my desk and not in public <g>).

          2. I've experienced the same (I think) situation with some restaurant spicy tuna rolls- they mince the fish or something and the consistency grosses me out... I like the sauce but with solid pieces of fish.
            I get sushi at the grocery store too but I think it's ok because the sushi counter is clean, the guy is right there and super nice and I like that its more accessible. Before my store had this the pre-made options consisted of pre-made salads (mushy with too much mayo), fried chicken, mashed potatoes, etc. I like that I can eat something fairly healthy... though I wish they didn't add the preservatives.

            1. Are either of those rolls common, either by name or contents? What does spicy tuna have to do with Seattle? The crab part might have some Seattle connection if it was Dungeness. Sometimes a roll with smoked salmon and cream cheese is called a Seattle roll, though it can also be named for cream cheese (Philly) or something Canadian (Vancouver or BC).


              1. Don't be stressed out. I absolutely fume when I have to read some sushi snob on the boards talking about all the ridiculously finicky etiquette that's required in order to avoid causing the itamae (the sushi chef) to lose face. You'd think that it was tea ceremony the way they talk about this ritualised nonsense.

                I urge you to find an adventurous friend and go sit at the counter. Sushi chefs, contrary to what the sushi snobs say, are not God. They are not going to smite you, they are not going to laugh at you, they are not going to act like the Soup Nazi. And you never know -- you might end up making friends and finding your "local" for sushi.

                Go in. Sit at the bar. Don't be intimidated, and don't be afraid to tell the sushi chef that you don't know what you're doing. Any good chef will take care of you, explain what it is you want. Ask questions, as many as you want. Take notes, even.

                I will say this -- given your reactions to the food you bought at a sushi bar, I would say that you may want to enquire on your local board for a more traditional sushi restaurant, one that does not specialise in Americanised rolls (with lots of gloppy sriracha-y stuff on top). Not because the roll-type places are bad or evil, but because it sounds like you would prefer a piece of fish or seafood on top of sushi rice.

                And for God's sake don't be afraid to give feedback. I've read your posts for years -- you are not a rude person. So if you really don't like all that glom on your sushi rolls, eat it politely as you see fit, and explain, "I think maybe there was too much chopped tuna on top."

                I ask for chef's choice ("omakase") on occasion, and they always ask me if there is anything I would prefer not to have. Well, I absolutely hate squid sushi, and the texture of uni (sea urchin) is revolting, so I ask for no squid and no uni, please. I've never even been looked at funny, not even by Nozawa, who is well-known as the crankiest itamae in Los Angeles.

                It depresses me to read that it's easier to get it at the grocery store. It definitely is, but it's also easier to get crappy pre-cooked hamburger patties at the grocery store, or elderly re-fried chicken, or deli sandwiches that all taste like Sysco.

                I hope this doesn't come across as condescending or pitying -- that's not my intention at all! I just get sad when people avoid sushi because they're intimidated by sushi restaurants. :)

                5 Replies
                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  I agree completely - had meant to post something like that earlier today (well, not quite as long or articulate!) - thank you.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    What Das Ubergeek said, times two. This is the way to do it.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      and a third "high five" for Das Ubergeek.

                      That is ABSOLUTELY how it's done in my neck of the woods.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Thank you so much for this insightful post...very good advice and perspective!

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          Once again Das Ubergeek I agree with what you say. Janet, I must admit, reading of all the etiquette rules involved almost scares me away from the sushi bar too, not to mention what some people's criteria for what is a 'good' (or what I read as expensive, trendy/exclusive) sushi restaurant. I feel somewhat intimidated too because I don't know the names of every kind of fish or the best cuts to choose. But sometimes you just have to wing it, and forget about what the snobs say. I trust my instincts, and choose from the list of specials of the day, and ask for recommendations. I know when something is fresh and well-prepared. That's good enough for me. Nothing wrong with a good supermarket bento box, but to me there is no comparison to fresh sushi.

                        2. I don't know what Richmond you're from, but I can say without equivocation that the sushi in Toronto supermarkets is far lower quality than what you get at a good restaurant. It's never as fresh, the fish/rice ratio is much smaller, and the taste is bland.

                          But frankly, I prefer sashimi. You see exactly what you're getting, you usually get better quality fish, and there are always side dishes like salad, rice, dumplings, etc. to round out the meal.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: KevinB

                            It's Richmond, VA. And I think she sashimi is a good recommendation. Obviously I need to be braver in the world of sushi (not eating it but ordering it <g>).