Rolling in Green

Written by Gwen Ashley Walters Category: Three Bites Issue: November 2014
Group Mid-Level
Character count 2500

Take the fish out of the equation with these vegetarian sushi rolls.

Sushi Roku
7277 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale,
It’s time for the swimmers to stop bogarting all the love. Sure, glistening ruby red bigeye tuna is ultra sexy, but haven’t you heard? Vegetables are in – and seductive in their own dirt-candy kind of way. Any sushi restaurant worth its sea salt offers a standard vegetable roll, but these three restaurants dig a little deeper. Take the Garden Roll ($11, pictured) at Sushi Roku. Executive chef Miles Newcomer starts with nori, the familiar edible seaweed, but not just any nori –  this version has been dried for three months for a deeper vegetal flavor. It’s basically the gold standard of seaweed. Even the rice is deluxe, flavored not with typical rice wine vinegar, but the reddish akazu vinegar, a byproduct of sake production. Fresh grated wasabi, blanched asparagus and peppery mizuna fill out the roll, which is served with a ginger soy dipping sauce and garnished with hand-cut spiraled cucumber and a tangle of fried potato strings.

2051 W. Warner Rd., Chandler,
Better known for mind-blowing seafood specials – like Mexican abalone and koika (baby squid) – Shimogamo also serves simple, delicious vegetarian rolls popular among purists. There is a cucumber roll, an avocado roll, a leafy vegetable roll, natch, and a more exotic kanpayo roll. Sushi Chef Zachary Rodenburg says the roll is common in Japan, but few sushi shops here offer it. The petite, finger-size roll features sweet pickled opo squash, seasoned rice and nori. That’s it. The dessert-like nature makes it a logical choice to end the meal.

Moira Sushi Bar & Kitchen
215 E. McKinley St., Phoenix,
This dark and sexy sushi bar just north of Downtown has been flying under the radar for the past five years, but those in the know flock to Moira (named after the Greek goddess of rebirth) for imaginative, offbeat makimono (read: rolled sushi). The menu is updated seasonally, but one roll, the vegetarian rainforest ($13) with sesame-soy dipping sauce, is perennial. A crosscut section reveals a colorful, textural palette of yamagobo (pickled burdock), tofu, cucumber, avocado and baby lotus root. Asparagus makes an
appearance, too, when in season.