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Sushi Pizza- California specialty?!

Hi California Chowhounds:

I am an ambassador from the Ontario chowhound board where we had a question maybe you guys can answer. We were discussing whether Sushi Pizza was a delicassy native to Toronto sushi restaurants. Someone made the claim that it had originated in California. See the link here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/52267...

Is anybody in a position to verify whether this is true or not?
In case there is any confusion this is what Toronto sushi pizza is as described by someone on the link above: It's a round rice patty, maybe 4-5" in diameter, deep fried (so that it gets nice and crispy/chewy and golden-brown on the outside), and topped with mayo, fish (usually salmon, but somtimes tuna and/or crab), and roe.

Anyone have that? If so, is it a standard on sushi menus?

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  1. I've never seen it in a San Francisco sushi restaurant, thank god.

    1. Ditto. I've never heard of it, either in sushi restos here or in Japan.

      1. Well you got an answer on the LA Board as would be expected for something that "original". # 25 0n the menu with a picture.

        2 Replies
        1. re: wolfe

          Umm...that does not seem quite it. The burnt rice disk in the picture on the menu is barely 1inch in diameter. The OP describes a HUGE 5 inch thing drowning in mayo and with tuna on top. Here in the SF/Bay Area, there are also places that will deep fry a roll in tempura batter, slice and serve, but this also does not seem to be correct.

          I can only answer one question definitively: it certainly is NOT standard on sushi menus. I have lived here for more than 2 decades and eaten my share of sushi, but have never heard of, much seen on menus or eaten, what the OP describes. I cannot answer for the interior valley or LA, both of which have substantial Japanese populations. Course, this does not mean it could not have been 'invented' by a sushi place that is obscure or defunct.

          WAIT: bay area residents, before you gag in horror. There is a traditional Japanese treat known as 'koge', do a search on this term and you will get several threads that discuss it in detail. It is the brown, burnt layer of rice on the bottom of rice pots or electric rice cookers. Traditionally, children fight over the right to enjoy this treat. I have enjoyed it more than once, along with green tea or sake, but never in a restaurant, and certainly NEVER with mayo or fish, either raw or cooked.

          Question to the Toronto board where this is standard fare: is the rice disk light and crispy, as in dipped in tempera batter and lightly fried, or is it the traditional 'koge', that is dark brown and chewy?? I would like to enjoy it if it is the latter next time I visit your city.

          1. re: jerry i h

            it is not drowning in mayo by any means. the mayo is more to keep the sushi on the fried rice patty and to add a bit of spice. it's probably closer to the former of your two options. Crisp on the outisde but still rice inside...think a piece of ngiri, but with the rice having a thin fried shell. but it is really delicious. also, on further thought, most places don't serve the 5 inch in diameter varity...closer to 2 or 3 inches in diameter, cut into 6 or so bite size "slices" about the size of ap iece of maki.

            I have determined that sushi pizza is a signature toronto dish, and would invote anybody to go to toronto and try it. they have great (and affordable) traditional sushi in TO as well, but sushi pizza is worth trying.

        2. I live in the bay area but I'm in Toronto right now. Sushi pizza is everywhere, but it's something I've never seen back home.

          1. sorry to lurk, and then pop out. . . but could we see a picture of this sushi pizza-- the signature toronto variety??? i never saw it when i was there, 5-6 years ago. then again even if i did see it-- would i even have known what it was? enquiring hounds want to know: what does sushi pizza look like? give us a pic!

            3 Replies
              1. re: Humbucker

                wow thanks for the pics. very interesting. :)

                1. re: soupkitten

                  Brian Romero especially!

                  Some of the presentations don't look half bad.

            1. Do you mean something like this? http://fiveprime.org/hivemind/Tags/ya...

              That's yakionigiri, and that may be served with uni (though usually not with raw fish) or ikura.

              7 Replies
              1. re: anzu

                1) thanks a bunch for posting pics, since, truthfully, I have not the slightest idea what the OP was talking about.
                2) I always like learning new things
                3) it is not traditional japanese fare, nor is it common or even existent in SF/Bay area sushi restaurants that I have ever been at (to tell the truth: I probably know more than I let on, since I have served more than once as an emergency fill-in sushi chef, though I have no more training than from being an apprentice fish monger).
                4) Yuck.

                1. re: jerry i h

                  It's not really gross. Certainly inauthentic, but the taste isn't too far off from yakionigiri.

                2. re: anzu

                  Those are scorched and mutilated musubi--might be good, combining musubi and koge!

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Actually, yakionigiri are delicious! The one that I had with uni was really good! However, I prefer it grilled or pan-fried as opposed to this frying business, which is what this sushi pizza seems to be about.

                    I have to admit, the Toronto pizza version sounds weird, but not too far off from yakionigiri (if they got rid of the mayo and pan-fried or grilled rather than fried it, I think I'd like it), and to be honest, not so far off from some of the weirdo izakaya dishes we have in the Bay Area, which seem popular.

                    There is this one place, Gochi, that serves some kind of weird fusion pizza. It's fried potato, w/ cheese and pizza toppings. We ordered it, b/c the server said that it was one of the most popular dishes. I found it greasy, heavy, and utterly inedible, but apparently, it is a hit item.

                    The sushi pizza doesn't sound too different from this fried potato pizza that people love.

                    1. re: anzu

                      Having tried potatoes and pasta, which I liked, I could see myself eating a fried potato pizza. However, I would have them hold the sauce and put ketchup on it instead.

                      1. re: anzu

                        The idea of 'koge' topped with bits of seafood, raw or cooked, is perfectly OK. What grossed me out was the MAYO. Ewww...

                        1. re: jerry i h

                          Exactly. I'm going to turn the outsides of some musubi into koge and eat with cooked fish. Mayo will not be anywhere nearby! Ever!

                  2. San Francisco has it's share of strange novelty rolls, but no Sushi Pizza.
                    Something tells me we can blame Hawaii instead!

                    Actually I do think I've had something similar served as an appetizer somewhere, but it had another name entirely and was sized closer to a crab cake.

                    1. Thankfully I have not seen it in Northern or Central California....
                      That is just wrong so wrong:)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: drmimi

                        Me neither, tri valley or central... never. And if I did, I'd never order it.

                      2. It has also been debated elsewhere whether this sushi pizza thing is a Korean run Japanese restaurant invention.

                        Definitely not common and in most places unheard of in SF Bay Korean run sushi restaurants, although I hope this thread won't generate any interest at all by business owners...

                        The closest "fusion" pizza I remember being discussed is Gochi Fusion Japanese Tapas in Cupertino. Can't recall if it was maguro pizza or uni pizza. But I never heard any comments along the lines of eeeeew gross. Humbucker's got the right idea, hit up flickr and you will see at least one shot of Gochi's verison when you view pics of "sushi pizza".

                        1. Two 1999 alt.food.sushi posts suggest it was invented in Canada:

                          "I had my first "sushi pizza" in Montreal around 1992, by the way, in a restaurant on Edouard-Montpetit called Atami. The sushi chef, a Japanese woman, told us it was her own invention. It was raw fish with mayonnaise and tobiko on a *cooked*, thin, rice crust like the one on MOS Burger's rice burgers. ... they were quite small, about 6" in diameter ..."

                          "More and more places in Toronto are serving sushi pizza now. Mostly a rice patty that's been deep fried, then fish on top. Also have had it where the rice is toasted instead of fried. I'm wondering where/when was this invented?"

                          The only earlier post I find regarding "sushi pizza" in a restaurant is from a 1996 "Best Japanese Restaurants in LA" thread on la.eats. It regards a place called Zipangu or Zipango that was no longer serving it at that time, and doesn't include a description.

                          1. Lots of "yuk" comments. I think it sounds delicious. The crisp rice reminds me of one of my favorites, bi bim bap, and topped with a little of the right mayo and raw fish? I wouldn't kick it out of bed.

                            1. I participated in the original thread which spawned the question, and ill concur with everyone here that as a native san franciscan I dont think ive ever seen sushi pizza on a menu in san francisco.

                              i did have the pleasure of trying it last week in toronto and can say that the rendition i tried was pretty tasty, if not the first thing id go running for, necessarily. it was just a hamburger-bun-top sized patty of rice panko'd and deep fried, topped with slices of avocado and salmon with a mayo based sauce between the cake and the fish/avo.

                              it was remarkably similar, conceptually, to the crispy rice with spicy tuna that seems to be on every sushi menu of a certain type of trendy sushi place in la - i had some at katsuya in the valley and it was very similar, if easier to eat because it was presented as six sushi-sized bites instead of an awkward round. perhaps if sushi pizza is califonian it just comes from further south?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: tex.s.toast

                                Where's the original thread?

                                The description reminds me of some of the gross junk food young Koreans order at soju bangs, like spam and hot dog jungol.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston


                                  downpressors original query is about 3/4ths of the way down the thread, and it was a user named cowhound who originally made the (uncited or qualified) claim that sushi pizza is of californian origins.

                                  it really wasnt as gross as anything involving spam. though im still totally unsure of why anyone made the first one (or, for that matter, if they made the first one why they thought to continue making them is somewhat unclear)

                              2. might not be here nor there, but Lester Holt and the Anchorlady of the day were eating this on the today show this am. From a place in NY. it was raw tuna on a disc of some sort that was 5-6 in. in diameter. Looked like spots of tobiko on it, and mayo.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: gordeaux

                                  Wow, that sounds disgusting. Isn't it more like a raw fish salad pizza, since sushi doesn't have mayo?

                                  But heck, never say never, I'd give it a try at least once.

                                  1. re: dolores

                                    Plenty of sushi rolls include mayo--not in purist places or the ones that I ever order, but I've seen it plenty of times on menus.

                                    1. re: Atomica

                                      According to Kewpie history the company introduced mayonnaise into Japan in 1925. More than long enough ago to corrupt a low fat diet.

                                      1. re: wolfe

                                        Japanese people are incredibly enthusiastic about mayo- especially on sushi rolls. I can't say I ever ate any rolls the two years I lived there because they almost always had mayo and I loathe mayo. Let's not even get into mayo on pizza and salads, on okonomiyaki, mayo flavored potato chips, or lovely, huge prawns with mayo as a sauce.

                                          1. re: queencru

                                            In Japan, there's a restaurant where every item on the menu has mayo in it:


                                            The article above also says that "Japanese consumed 1.65 kg of mayonnaise per person" in 2006. That's a lot of mayo!

                                            1. re: queencru

                                              Thanks, queencru. I had no idea!

                                              1. re: queencru

                                                Mayonnaise does seem to enthrall most Japanese, but it is rarely served in sushi places and most rolls do not contain mayo. There are a few gunkan maki items that may use mayo, but they are not served at finer sushi places. See here for standard rolls in Japan- http://www.chowhound.com/topics/512998

                                                For many years now, I've read in American publications about how Americanized sushi- i.e. mayo-maki-thinga-mabobs- are taking Japan by storm and redefining how Japanese see sushi. But this just isn't the case. Yet. Unfortunately, as you noted, mayonnaise has managed to creep into all sorts of other dishes as it is ultra popular with the younger generation. I saw a feature story on TV a couple of years ago in Japan on one young woman who carried around kewpie in her purse so she didn't have to miss a single meal (perhaps a single dish!) without slathering the stuff on. So perhaps, if you like and eat the sushi in Japan, the sushi/mayo marriage is a disgusting, inevitable bullet train barrelling down the tracks.

                                      2. I've seen it at Izakaya Den in Denver, FWIW. No idea where they got the idea.

                                        1. Other than its shape or a marketing ploy, why is fried rice, mayo and salmon called pizza which is dough. sauce and cheese all baked together in an oven?

                                          Jfood is all for derivative products but this has nothing to do with pizza, has more in common with a ham sandwich.

                                          BTW - The pictures make this look outstanding, jfood only wishes they sold this nouvelle-sushi near him.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: jfood

                                            Pizza is dough, no? - plus whatever you want to put on it that you like. The pizzas I've had in northern Italy never had any sauce. The Turino special is merely dough, cheese and anchovies. And I thought Acciughe meant something else!

                                            1. re: scoopG

                                              Now that's what I call a taco!


                                              Sorry I couldn't resist reviving this!