By STEVEN DESALVO
For Montclair Local
In Montclair Eats, food writer Steven DeSalvo compares dishes at Montclair restaurants.
DeSalvo has a degree in hospitality business management from the University of Delaware and has worked extensively in restaurants and hotels.
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With each edition of Montclair Eats, I have to think long and hard about what foods I want to write about (and eat!). Perpetually, I have to make decisions that aren’t actually difficult, but I tend to overthink them. “What have I featured? What do I want to try for the first time? What do I feel like eating today?”
Those are just a few of the prompts each time.
Sushi is something I haven’t featured before, so this time around, thankfully, the decision was an easy one. This article features some of the most creative special sushi rolls, “maki” in Japanese, in Montclair.
Every one of these follows the same standard: they needed to be a little bit ridiculous. Incidentally that was a very easy task to fulfill! Narrowing down the vast number of selections was a more difficult task but I was happy to struggle through it for my readers.
Dai Kichi was the first venue I went to. I ordered the “Godzilla Roll” which is a delicious combination of tempura fried soft shell crab, avocado, fish eggs, and house made peanut sauce. Next, I went to Aozora, where I had the “Rock n Roll” which was comprised of shrimp tempura, barbecued eel, and spicy tuna, all wrapped up in rice paper, rather than seaweed. Finally, I stopped at Nori where I sampled the “Great American Roll,” which basically combines the other two rolls I tried: Soft shell crab and shrimp tempura, barbecued eel, cucumber, and avocado amongst other things.
- The Godzilla Roll from Dai Kichi is the complete package. If you aren’t a fan of soft shell crab, then this roll absolutely is not for you. But if you are like me and have literally no food aversions, this is a sure hit. For me the real win is when you get to eat it fresh, when the crab itself is still warm and crunchy. This provides a textural contrast that is necessary for the full sushi enjoyment. The peanut sauce works wonders in tying everything together. It also lends a really enjoyable temperature contrast. This is high level stuff we are talking about here!
2. Probably the most fascinating contrasting flavors and textures of my outing were in the Rock n Roll from Aozora: hot fried shrimp, cold spicy tuna, and slightly slimy (not in a bad way) barbecued eel. The flavors from all of these items compliment each other so well. The fat from the eel and shrimp tame the spice from the tuna, so that it doesn’t feel overly spicy and the bite is pleasantly warm. I also really like the element of raw and cooked fish in use here, which lends to the temperature contrast in play here across all of these rolls today. The balance between everything is excellent.
3. Finally, the great coming together, or crossover episode, if you will. The Great American Roll from Nori combines the best of both bites in a way that is not overbearing or over-the-top. It is delicious. All of the components add something of value. Nothing feels like it is unnecessary. The soft shell crab and shrimp tempura have contrasting flavors that compliment each other nicely along with the different textures of two different shellfish cooked in the same method. There is some familiarity here between them and that is comforting.
It was fun having all three of these so close together because I was able to appreciate the similarities and differences between the styles of each specific restaurant. Even the little details like the rice are so different between establishments and make for an exciting and new experience each time. As always, I would never suggest trying all of these within a few hours of one another. That being said, definitely try any of the special rolls these places have to offer and let us know which one is your favorite!
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