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Raw Like Sushi

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gangsta roll
The Gangsta Roll at Bay Area sushi chain Barracuda

"Suck a tentacle, dip it in sauce/Hot green root, it sure is boss/My only vice is to slice it nice/And wrap it in rice/Oh, what a device!"
-- The Tubes, "Sushi Girl"

Americanized Japanese menus throughout the country feature the Rock 'n' Roll, a maki made with eel and avocado, but the Bay Area gets considerably more intricate when it comes to incorporating music with sushi. At Ace Wasabi's Rock 'n' Roll Sushi in San Francisco's Cow Hollow neighborhood, the rolls rock much harder, as on the ones named for U2 (tempura shrimp topped with spicy tuna, avocado, and tobiko) and Ozzy Osbourne (tempura shrimp topped with crab, avocado, jalapeño, tobiko, and spicy mayo). Asa Sushi, also in Cow Hollow, celebrates with rolls named Modern Rock (tuna, kaiware, avocado, and tobiko) and Heavy Metal (eel, avocado, yellowtail, and mixed nuts), while SOMA's Zaoh favors New Wave (smoked salmon and cream cheese).

Akiko's in the Tenderloin and Chin Restaurant and Sushi in the Richmond both rock a Disco Roll with identical ingredients (spicy tuna and eel). Meanwhile, disco's antecedents get a spin at Sushi Groove in Nob Hill and SOMA, which offer Techno (fish of the day with cucumber and tobiko) and Jungle (yellowtail, papaya, and tobiko) Rolls.

Sushi has been a popular metaphor in rap music ever since Big Daddy Kane said he was "raw like sushi," a line that still pops up with frequency today. It's often equated with success, as Atlanta rapper Young Dro enthuses on the remix of Jim Jones' popular "We Fly High": "I'm skating on ice like Kristi Yamaguchi/Sit up in the Chevy eating blowfish sushi." The food is also now frequently used rather rudely to talk about a woman's anatomy, as in Drake's contribution to the Young Money hit "Bedrock": "I love your sushi roll/hotter than wasabi/I race for your love/Shake and bake, Ricky Bobby."

Locally, a love of rap music surfaces in the Hip-Hop Roll at Dogpatch sushi joint Moshi Moshi (eel, avocado, and tobiko) and Otoro in Hayes Valley (tempura shrimp and avocado topped with garlic white tuna). The recently opened Mas Sake Freestyle Sushi in Cow Hollow has a hip-hop tinged name, and gives the honor of a roll to legendary hypemaster Doug E. Fresh with the Dougie Fresh (tempura shrimp with avocado and ginger) and crossover star Kid Rock (tempura calamari, radish sprouts, and cucumber). But Barracuda features the most hardcore take on the genre with its Gangsta Roll (yellowtail, cucumber, and green onions covered with eel and salmon topped with tobiko and eel sauce) at its locations in San Francisco, Daly City, Burlingame, Redwood City, and Mountain View. Barracuda's also got the Rock Star (spicy tuna tempura and avocado topped with tuna, salmon, eel, and four fruit sauces) and the Punk Rocker (deep-fried soft-shell crab with avocado, cucumber, snow crab, eel, shrimp, avocado, and eel sauce). But they're all likely to be served over a bed of pre-recorded house music, strangely enough.


We haven't yet found a Soul Roll anywhere, but have been delighted to discover Michael Jackson anthems being tributed at Mission hotspots Tokyo Go Go and Sushi Bistro (the latter also has a location in the Richmond). Tokyo Go Go presents Off the Wall, a roll of tempura shrimp and cucumber topped with spicy tuna, avocado, and tobiko that's been soaked in wasabi, while Sushi Bistro sports the Billie Jean of baby lobster, avocado, and cucumber wrapped in soy paper and aioli and topped with salmon.

The classics get a nod with Tenderloin sushi restaurant Ryoko's Shrimp Symphony (cooked shrimp, cucumber, and avocado) and the Jazz Roll (eel, avocado, and spicy vegetables wrapped in soybean paper) at Yuki Sushi in Santa Clara. At Yoshi's in the Fillmore District, one can enjoy large flights of sushi and sashimi with names like Big Band, High Note, and C-Major before retiring to the main area for a live concert. Moki in Bernal Heights uses a musical reference as a punchline in the wonderfully named Drum Roll (snow crab, mango, and mint). And the beat goes on.

The Tubes: Sushi Girl

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