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Odd/Nontraditional Sushi Rolls?

In another post, someone mentioned sushi with cream cheese in it as part of high-end California style sushi. I live in So. CA, and have never see sushi with cream cheese offered at any of the sushi bars/restaurants we frequent, so I looked it up online. It came with up the Philadephia Roll, which is smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber. I have never seen this on a menu before!

It got me thinking that sushi rolls are probably created based on regional preferences. I think while sushi has been popular for years in LA and NY, its only recently became popular in other metro areas, and therefore, chefs are coming up with rolls to fit the area. The California roll was invented in LA by a sushi chef in the 70s. The Philadephia roll was also invented by an American chef who felt his customers wouldn't want to eat raw fish. Here in LA, most locals wouldn't order a California roll at a sushi bar (of course, there are always exceptions!) but I just looked at menus for the three sushi bars we go to and none of them offer a Philadelphia roll.

Living in LA, we get excellent sushi here. DH and I prefer more traditional sushi and sashimi. One sushi bar we've been to a couple times offers a Garlic Shrimp roll, which was basically hot sautéed shrimp with butter and garlic, wrapped in rice and nori. Think Shrimp Scampi in a roll. I ordered it once, to try it, and it was good, but its not what I think of when I go out for sushi. The chef who served us that day said they came up with it because they didnt have many offerings for the non-raw eaters. A $$$$ sushi place near us does a Kobe beef sushi with lemon, salt and drizzled with truffle oil. Delicious but definitely nontraditional.

What unusual sushi and/or sushi rolls have you seen on a menu?

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  1. Where we go most frequently, we can buy very simple rolls for $4.00 a piece and they consist of the usual suspects, raw vegetables, raw fish or a combination. If you select a tempura roll the price goes up $2.00 and is still fairly traditional. The minute you order from the Chef's Special rolls you are ordering in the $9-$30 range. The roll consists of 9-12 pieces and the nontraditional choices come into play. That would include more sauces, the use of fresh fruit. The most 'unusual' roll we've enjoyed recently was a mexicali roll; super spicy/hot with non asian flavors.

    1. Long, long ago - we're talking very early 80s - a now defunct sushi boat place in Palo Alto had a chef who would occasionally make "dessert" sushis, including ones with ume (salted plums) or walnuts, which he said were popular in parts of Japan.

      4 Replies
      1. re: tardigrade

        I think salted plum sushi could be very good! I love salted plums!

        1. re: boogiebaby

          i've had rolls with umeboshi and cucumber and it IS really good.

          1. re: boogiebaby

            Ume-shiso maki are pretty standard in Japan. They, like most maki, are considered stomach stuffers toward the end of the meal.

            1. re: Silverjay

              Also, the ume-shiso flavors are considered somewhat of a palate-cleanser (salty, acidic and herbal) after a lot of fatty rich sushi.

        2. just did a quick google-fu of some san diego sushi menus. 5 out of 5 all had california maki and philadelpha maki. i also don't order either of those, but somebody must be, or they wouldn't be on menus, both in your area and my home of new england.

          our better "sushi" places don't even do maki rolls.

          while i can be snobby about other regions and my presumption of their culinary shortcomings, i think it's very short-sighted on your end to think sushi is just now reaching anyplace but ny and la.

          4 Replies
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            It wasn't intended to be short sighted. My husband lived in NJ before we got married. He never understood my love of sushi while we were dating because where he lived, sushi was not something people really ate. He said there was only 1 sushi restaurant in his area. When he moved to CA, he started eating sushi and now it's one of his favorite things to eat.

            I have friends in central IL, and while they do have a couple sushi restaurants there, it's not as popular as other cuisines like Italian or Mexican.

            Here's the place I mentioned that had the garlic shrimp sushi. They have a couple inventive rolls, and the standard California roll, but no Philadelphia roll: this isnt a high end sushi bar either - its a tiny little place with a handful of tables. http://www.littlebrothersushi.com/lit...
            Here's another place we go to sometimes. Again, nothing fancy, just a standard sushi bar with a few tables inside. They have Ca roll, but no Philadephia roll:http://www.ominosushi.com/dinner-menu

            Im not snobby about my food by any means. if i were, I'd be eating at the $300 sushi bars instead of the $50 sushi bars. I have no problem eating from a taco cart in the street or going to an upscale restaurant for a multi-course meal. I do draw the line at grocery store sushi though!

            My point was, I think sushi has been around but it hasn't become popular in some areas until a few years ago. There were sushi restaurants in LA in the 60s and 70s, whereas I don't think there were sushi restaurants in other metro areas around that same time. I could be wrong though. Because its a "foreign" concept to many people to eat raw fish, I think sushi chefs regionally adapt the food to cater to their clientele's preferences, with the Philadelphia roll being a perfect example.

            1. re: boogiebaby

              not sure of the dates we're discussing, but i was eating sushi in nj in the 80s.

              sometimes personal perception of popularity has more to do with the preferences of our circle of friends and colleagues than it does with reality.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                I'm talking mid 90s. My assumption is/was that if there's only 1 sushi restaurant in the area, it must not be in high demand. That may an incorrect assumption on my part.

                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  @hotoynoodle:
                  I agree.
                  My first taste of sushi was in the mid 1970's in Central NJ. Grated that there weren't as many places selling it as there are now, but it still rally wasn't all that rare a thing.

            2. I've encountered cream cheese on sushi rolls before. It's not something I enjoy.

              A regional roll I have seen is with crawfish in Texas. Also, there in (Austin) Texas I find more spicy rolls with red chile powder on them. There is also one place that has foie gras sushi. That isn't regional. It is delicious, though.

              1 Reply
              1. re: luckyfatima

                My DH would order a foie grass roll! He was devastated when CA banned fois gras!