Ryan’s Sushi Journey; Hatsune’s Moto-Roll-Ah Roll; Sneak Peak at Sushi Competition

21 Oct

It was sometime around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I was eating a chicken roll from The Gallery Four.  As the sauce dripped from the side of my mouth onto the paper plate, I got to thinking about how it has been exactly one month since I got back from China.  The past month has really flown, and I haven’t had much time to reminisce on my time there, and so on my drive over to Anthony’s house (10 minutes after I finished the chicken roll), I attempted to somewhat relive my two-week journey that saw nothing but the best that China had to offer in terms of food, champagne, wine, traveling, hospitality, and most of all: friends.  That’s a lot to relive and replay in a twenty-four minute drive, and there was one piece of the journey that stood out to me along the way: the Moto-Roll-Ah Roll at Hatsune.

I consider myself pretty well-versed in the world of sushi despite the fact that I only allowed myself to start eating it about five years ago.  Like many non-sushi-eaters, I was stuck on the fact that I didn’t want to eat ‘raw fish.’  Needless to say, I got over that as soon as I tried my first piece.  In those past five years of my sushi indulgence, I have eaten the freshest sashimi and sushi in Tokyo, worked in the top-rated Japanese restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai, eaten my fair-though-not-Jeremy-Piven-level share of sushi in New York and North Carolina, hosted sushi parties featuring my homemade, handcrafted rolls, and been GM of a Japanese restaurant.  I would definitely say that I have been immersed in the world of sushi more than most for the past 5 years.

That being said, one would think it would be tough to pick a most memorable sushi experience or a favorite dish.  It is not.  At all.  There is one roll that stands far above anything I have ever tasted.  But before we get to that, I want to discuss the three types of sushi eaters.

Sushi eaters can be divided up into three categories.  We’ll call them: the Japanese, the Californians, and the Hybrids.

  • The Japanese diet is known for being very healthy.  Most of their cuisine is consumed fresh or steamed.  So you can imagine, even if you’ve never been there, what a typical meal would be like.  If you were to go to a sushi restaurant in Tokyo – or anywhere in the country, for that matter – the emphasis would be on the freshness of the fish, the flavor profile of the fish and rice, and the texture of the rice.  That being said, a lot of Japanese don’t even eat rice with their fish.  Side note for everyone to get straight: the definition of the word ‘sushi’ is cooked vinegared rice. They often prefer to eat sashimi, which is delicate slices of raw fish.  But when they do eat sushi, it is in the form of nigiri, which is a hand-pressed ball of sushi rice with a dab of wasabi and a piece of raw fish.  Nobody eats what we as Americans have come to know as sushi, which are those delicious rolls.
  • The Californians are really all of us westerners who love sushi rolls.  A sushi roll consists, typically, of a few main ingredients: sushi rice, nori (dried seaweed), and some type of raw fish/vegetables.  There are a lot of variables, sauces, garnishes, and ways to play around here to really dress a roll up, but those three ingredients are usually the main substance of the roll.  California style sushi gave birth to the – yes, you guessed it – California Roll,’ which is simply imitation crab stick, avocado, and cucumber wrapped inside-out (rice on the outside) with nori and sushi rice.  That is usually the non-sushi-eater’s first step into trying their first bite of heaven here in America.  The Californians cover their rolls in artistically-drizzled sauces, sesame seeds, and layers upon layers of mouthwatering fish and vegetables.  They won’t mess with sashimi or nigiri – usually people are strictly California style sushi eaters when they believe that what they don’t know can’t hurt them, seeing as most of the raw fish is inside the sauce-laden roll.
  • The Hybrids are the people who like both.  They’ll go fresh with sashimi and nigiri, but they’ll also stray away from traditionalism with a deliciously-drizzled roll of pure ecstasy.

What am I?  You probably guessed it, but I am a Hybrid sushi eater. I could sit on a fishing boat, watch a blue fin tuna or red snapper get caught and filleted and eat a piece of sashimi right off the cutting board.  I could also sit down at a restaurant and indulge in the most fantastically-presented, beautifully-arranged, wildly unique-tasting sushi roll and love every second of it.

Now to the main event: my favorite sushi ever.  I certainly have eaten meritorious sushi that I remember clear as day – the homemade, freshly cut sashimi and nigiri on New Year’s morning at Aya’s house in Tokyo is the experience that comes close to dethroning my favorite, but nothing I have ever tasted has been as good as the Moto-Roll-Ah Roll.

The setting is Hatsune, Alan’s Japanese restaurant in Beijing that, for the past 9 years, has been rated as the top Japanese restaurant in the city.  It is the first California-style sushi restaurant of its kind in all of Beijing, and as upheld the highest standards of excellence and delicious food since its opening in 2001.  The setting certainly helps the cause for me, because Hatsune is my favorite restaurant that I have ever been to.  It is not necessarily the best, but it is my favorite because I feel the best when I am there compared to any restaurant I have ever been to.  Simple as that.

A brief history: the Moto-Roll-Ah was created a short time after Alan opened Hatsune.  It wasn’t on the original menu, but when Alan saw how many guests he had coming daily from Motorola’s corporate office down the road, he decided to dedicate a roll to them.  Little did he know that nine years later it would be the best-selling menu item in Hatsune’s storied history.  It literally melts in your mouth as you begin to chew, and the combination of flavors is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before in sushi.

Now, if you’ve read this far, you definitely want to know what this roll is all about.  Without further ado, here it goes:

The Moto-Roll-Ah Roll

Deep-Fried Spicy Tuna and Snow Crab Covered in Blue Fin Maguro Tuna,

Layers of Rich Avocado, Scallions, Tobiko, and a

Special Sauce with a Hint of Wasabi and Tinges of Sweetness

 

The Meritorious 2nd Place

New Year’s Morning at Ayako’s House in Tokyo, Japan

 

I know Nemo told us that ‘Fish are friends, not food,’ but it is truly inexplicable what non-sushi eaters are missing out on.  Sushi is a world of exploration.  There are so many flavors, so many categories, so many creations to be made.  Imagine a world of sushi where roll-holding chopsticks dangled from trees and you had your choice any time and every time you wanted some?

At The Vaulted Door we’re going to bring a modern flare to our sushi – we’re planning on introducing a menu of 11 rolls that are unparalleled not only in freshness and flavor, but also in creativity.  However, we only have 10 set rolls.  Sharpen your knife, roll your bamboo and get to work.  Whoever creates the most unique, special, funky, delicious, creative roll in the next month *by November 20* will get a spot on our opening menu.  This is the first mention of this competition.  Full details to be disclosed tomorrow.  This your chance to get your creativity working a day in advance before the rules are announced!  Good luck!

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