My first encounter with American-style sushi was back in 90’s in Los Angeles.
On my way back from work, I saw long lines of people waiting outside of this small, what appeared to be a restaurant. Every evening, I passed this ordinary establishment with no special decor except the sign says “Sushi Cafe.”
So, I decided to give a try to find out what was so special about their sushi which made people wanting to line up.
The inside of this place, “Crazy Fish,” was even noting extraordinary. Just like it says on the outside, “Sushi Cafe,” the inside of the restaurant very casual with handwritten menus on the wall, some counter seats, and sushi chefs and waitresses wearing T-shirt. It’s as casual as dinner just around the corner, except, they serve sushi?
Glancing at their menu, aside from Nigiri of tuna, salmon, hamachi and other standard fare, there were rolls with names like, Caterpillar Roll, Spider Roll, Jewish Roll (aka: Philadelphia Roll), Alaska and Cray Fish Roll. I’ve never heard of most of those rolls before. (this was before I became a sushi chef…)
I looked around to see what other people were eating and also, asked the wait staff to find out what Caterpillar roll had inside.
I still remember the very first time I tried Caterpillar Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, Spider Roll and Shrimp Tempura Roll. As shocking as how non-traditional they looked, what was more shocking was the fact that I liked them.
Since them, I like their sushi so much so that crazy fish became my to-go place for sushi. I took many of my American friends as well as Japanese friends and they all liked the sushi as much as I did.
Just because I liked American Style Sushi like Crazy Fish, that did not mean I abandoned more traditional Japanese style Sushi like Nigiri.
I see American style sushi as just another form or variation of sushi. They look different, and use different ingredients, because, they were invented in a place 5,000 miles away from Japan, so naturally, it would and should look and taste different.
While, some traditional Japanese sushi chefs and Japanese may consider Caterpillar Roll as “disgraceful” or “not sushi at all,” by definition, they are unquestionably sushi because they use sushi rice, as the word “Sushi” refers to the seasoned rice.
If you look back twenty to thirty years ago in Japan, Salmon sushi was not popular at all and look at Kaiten Sushi chains like Kura-zushi and Sushiro now.
At many of their restaurants, Salmon is the №1 nigiri neta. They even serve “Banana” sushi and “Corn and Mayo” sushi.
Sushi has been and will always be changing and evolving and so should the sushi in other parts of the world, I think.
At my first sushi restaurant where I started my sushi training, all Japanese sushi chefs learned their trade in the US. They too shared the same feeling toward American-style sushi. One of the sushi chefs said to me, “I like Shrimp Tempura Roll, and Caterpillar Roll. I eat them, and there is nothing wrong with them. At the same time, I like Saba also.”
Yes, I too feel the same way. Sushi is sushi. I like both Shrimp Tempura Roll and Saba Nigiri.
By the way, if you want to read the full story, here it is:
I’ve Never Seen Spider or Caterpillar on The Menu Before
My visit to this ‘Crazy’ restaurant gave me the first taste of American style sushi.
Kaz Matsune is a founder of Breakthrough Sushi, Two Places Technologies, , investor, entrepreneur, and author of four books including How I Became A Sushi Chef.
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