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Love those Blue Crab Hand Rolls! Whose are the best?

I first experienced the wonders of a Blue Crab Hand Roll at Sushi Nozawa many years ago. Nozawa-san’s may be the biggest, but not necessarily the best. Nobi at Sasabune offers a fine roll as do Hiro-san at Sushi Koyo and Go-san at Go’s Mart. Ken at Jubei also prepares a nice roll. However, for overall savor, texture and addictiveness, I find the rolls hand delivered by Katsu at Sushi Wasabi to reign above the rest. Notably, Katsu’s rolls are indeed the smallest I’ve had (ah, less may really be more). He uses Texas Blue Crab and a slightly different nori with a unique (toasted) crispiness to the bite.

Please note that I am not referring to a fried soft-shell crab or other cooked roll. I am only interested in the chopped fresh crab variety served slightly chilled over warm rice wrapped in nori.

I know of other sushi bars that serve them (Zo, Kiriko, Echigo, etc.), but I’ve yet to sample them. Your opinions as to who’s are the best and where I should seek to enjoy the finest of these delectable “cigars of the sea” would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Kiriko & Zo get my vote (a tie for the best blue crab hand roll). Sasabune in second place.

    Echigo isn't even in the equation.

    7 Replies
    1. re: J.L.

      I would throw in my two cents for Dokoro Ki Ra La on lil Santa Monica. They use very little mayo, the size of the roll is very nice and the ratio of rice/crab is spot on. The rice is warm so you have to eat the roll right away.

      1. re: js76wisco

        Hey, js76wisco - can you (or anyone) please tell me more about this Dokoro Ki Ra La?
        I am intrigued
        The Yelp pics look excellent.
        The website is notable for their piety to quality "[a]midst the declining quality of Japanese food in Los Angeles."
        Nice! Yet, I am sure that many truly terrible places offer similar homilies online.

        Is it really great?


        1. re: J.L.

          Kiriko is excellent but i think the best one i've ever had is at Nishi-Ya.

          1. re: Clyde

            I'm with you on the one at Nishi-Ya, really wonderful.

          2. re: J.L.

            Kiriko makes this mayo-phobe happy by making it all crab inside no problem.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I say Zo followed by the ones at Nozawa and the one at Go's Mart.

                Good good stuff.

                1. re: kevin

                  Yabu on La Cienega in West Hollywood has THE BEST baked crab hand roll. It's dungeness crab and it is warm and super delicious...enjoy

                  1. re: vajrini

                    I'm not a fan of any of that baked dynamite dishes.

              2. Gotta go with Sasabune.

                1. zo = perfect ratio of crab, mayo, wasabi, rice. i didn't like sushi wasabi's much but then again, i tried it several years back so perhaps it's much improved.

                  1. sushi central does stellar blue crab hand rolls. also don't miss the bruleed ono.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: tastycakes

                      This the place on overland, near palms, i think right.


                      i've never been here before. can any other hound attest to the greatest of these crab rolls in comparision to zo or say sasabune???

                      thanks. maybe i'll have to try it too.

                      does the bruleed ono, have burned sugar crystalizzied on it like a creme brulee ???

                      1. re: kevin

                        no sugar, just succulent, warmed, smoky ono

                    2. the one i had at sasabune earlier was great, i think that might be as good almost as zo.

                      and now that nozawa is closed i can't speak to it.

                      also, if you sit at a table you can probably go hog-wild a just order a half dozen of those crab roll suckers per person and maybe a few beers or some sake to wash it down. not half bad.

                      but at zo, you will have to go through the whole meal to get to those blue crab handrolls. i still think zo is the best for sushi though i prolly will not go there again ever due to a serious service issue, that being said, their sushi and blue crab handrolls are still great.

                      1. On a side note, you get crab meal (the stuff inside the blue crab handrolls) at the tiny sectioned-off cafe within sasabune. they also carry turkey and egg salad sandwiches and cappachinos and all your other espresso drinks as well as baked goods. very weird stuff.

                        utimately too weird.

                        1. The one at Sushi Ichi in Pasadena is almost all crab, with just a little rice, if there was mayo, it wasn't noticable. If you want a drier styled, crab heavy roll, that's one to try.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: Robert Thornton

                            I don't travel around looking for the best crab hand rolls. I eat crab rolls at Sugar Fish because it is near home and next door to where I have a manicure. Having said that, I can say that I love the crab rolls and can eat them while my nails are drying. Talking about Brentwood Sugarfish.

                            1. re: maudies5

                              You are sure to get blasted for saying anything positive about Sugar Fish on this site, but I totally agree that the Brentwood Sugar Fish does a very good crab hand roll. Much like Sausabune which is also tabo here.

                              1. re: Thor123

                                >>You are sure to get blasted for saying anything positive about Sugar Fish on this site...<<

                                Actually Sugar Fish gets both + and -. Some find it to be consistent and a good deal, while others hold a grudge.

                                1. re: Thor123

                                  Not every dislikes sugarFISH on this board. I like it. In fact, I often do sushi takeout from them.

                                  Some people may dislike it because sugarFISH is a more "corporate" sushi experience, or maybe they feel that Nozawa-san has "sold out" to the almighty dollar.

                                  I simply go by how it tastes. Frankly, for now, I'm still impressed with the quality control sugarFISH has on their product, given that it's a far less "personal" sushi experience than with other sushi-yas. For example, the albacore sugarFISH had recently was as good as Mori's. And their hotate-gai was just as good as Kiriko's. And yes, the sugarFISH crab roll is among the best in the city.

                                  I could care less if the food comes out of a window in the back, or who's making it back there, or whether it's "pre-cut" or not. As long as my cranial nerves VII, IX & X tell me it's "Oishi", it's good.

                                  1. re: J.L.

                                    [Insert joke equating sitting at the sushi-ya interacting with the itamae to being intimate with someone one loves, and equating getting sushi from SUGARFISH to going to a prostitute.]

                                    (J.L, this is NOT a criticism of your pragmatism, which I agree with somewhat, just the first analogy that popped into my head. Yes, I am strange.)

                                    (Anyone who likes SUGARFISH, this is not a knock against SUGARFISH either.)

                                    Back to the OP's question, I've had blue crab handrolls at many places, but haven't started really paying attention to the quality until recently. I think Hide's and Irori's are competent, but you're asking for the best. I just had Kiriko's for the first time today and it easily blows those two places out of the water, but that's to be expected. Empirically, without being able to compare it to other high-end places that it gets compared to (like Zo), it's really damn good, but Kiriko already seems to be in the lead in the number of recs, so I'm not really adding anything to this thread, so I'll just slowly back out of it now...

                                    Also, cigars of the sea... really weird imagery. :-)

                                    1. re: PeterCC

                                      Cigars of the sea?

                                      Sasabune does a really great blue crab handroll. And ther lunch special at a little under 20 bucks is not half bad.

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        That's what the OP said:

                                        "Your opinions as to who’s are the best and where I should seek to enjoy the finest of these delectable 'cigars of the sea' would be greatly appreciated."

                                        1. re: PeterCC

                                          Maybe that will more properly be a "sea-gar"? ;-D>

                                          1. re: Servorg

                                            Ash-uredly, that is a fine pun, Servorg!

                                            1. re: Ciao Bob

                                              All punning aside I wonder how one of these puppies would taste with the addition of avocado? I love avocado and eel hand rolls. The avocado really brings out another taste dimension and I like the little crab and avocado "tower" appetizers that places do. This seems like it would be a good match.

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                Wouldn't it taste like a California (hand) roll with real crab instead of surimi?

                                                Also, I can't read "sea-gar" without giving it a pirate accent: "sea-garrrr!"

                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                  I really find hand rolls to be different in terms of taste and texture than cut up rolls (given the large nori or other type of wrapper used and the greater volume of the main ingredient you get with every bite). And, because anytime I have a California roll it's cut I sort of think the hand roll version would be qualitatively different (to me) than the cut version.

                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                    Oh sure, I definitely think hand rolls taste different (and generally better IMO) than cut rolls, but a blue crab hand roll with avocado would probably taste most like a California roll than anything else were one to have to compare it to something.

                                                    (I'm pretty sure I've had a blue crab California hand roll, but it was a while ago. Nothing's jumping out at me about the memory though.)

                                                    What I like about temaki is that the experience eating one is generally not uniform, with the conical ones at least. The first bite and the last bite are quite different because of the change in ratio of nori-to-filling, and both ends of a great temaki are great in their own way (disregarding the hand rolls that actually look like cigars, of course).

                                                    1. re: PeterCC

                                                      Yea. Someone used to describe fatty blue crab handrolls in their rough hand-formed sizes to be similar to Jamaican splifs.