The 10 Most Crazy & Creative Sushi Rolls In S.F. — Chop, Chop!

[UPDATE: This story was originally published on March 18.]
Living close to the Bay has its perks — year-round scrumptious seafood undeniably being one of them. And, while fresh sushi isn’t exactly hard to come by, innovative, outside-the-bento-box rolls sometimes require a little deep diving into the S.F. culinary scene to discover. So, if you feel like a fish out of water gasping for anything but lackluster plates, we’ve caught 10 original takes on the Japanese dish.
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Whether you’re looking to munch on velvety, peanut-butter-filled wheels of yumminess or crave a South of the border-inspired ceviche roll, these sushi creations will have your eyes and mouth opening wide with wonder — no soy sauce, necessary! Just click through for some truly unique sticky-rice masterpieces and brush up on those chopstick-wielding skills, because you won’t want to miss a single bite!
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Volcano Roll at Ryoko’s, $13
When it comes to the Volcano Roll at Ryoko’s, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And whoever said peanut butter and jelly were the perfect match, obviously never tried this roll. The creamy sammie staple is smothered sans jelly into the roll for a smooth nutty flavor amongst the deep-fried shrimp, jalapeno, and cucumber. The family-owned establishment serves the innovative creation on a wooden platform with seaweed facing outward, and dishes out complimentary edamame with every order of sushi. Needless to say, we’re nuts about this roll, and its well worth the hike up the steep Tenderloin slope to taste.

Ryoko’s, 619 Taylor Street (between Sutter and Post streets); 415-775-1028.
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Kobe Beef Roll at Chaya, $23.50
To create top-notch sushi, Chaya’s philosophy is to beef things up. It slides slivers of torched kobe steak on top of the rolls filled with shrimp tempura, snow crab, avocado, and spicy aioli. You might be seated in a swanky Embarcadero resto, but this roll tastes like it was just charred at a BBQ. In one bite, it bursts with smoky, sweet, and herb flavors thanks to the blend of beef, cilantro, and unagi sauce. Creating this roll was nothing short of seared genius.

Chaya, 132 The Embarcadero (at Mission Street); 415-777-8688.
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Sushi Cupcakes at Mas Sake, $12
Even though there’s nothing technically saccharine about this roll, we think you’ll still be in for a treat. The Sushi Cupcake dish is the hidden gem inside this club-like Japanese-Mexican fusion resto that recently celebrated its 14th anniversary. Orange rice paper surrounds cuts of mango, jalapeno, and red onion — which adds a crunchy balance to the smooth cream cheese added in the middle. To give it that cupcake look, Mas Sake crowns the roll with crab, spicy tuna, and tobiko. We’ll take a dozen!

Mas Sake, 2030 Lombard Street (between Fillmore and Webster streets); 415-440-1505.
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Russian Roulette Roll at Tataki South, $15
This roll is a game changer in more ways than one. Not only does it take inspiration from the Russian pastime of deadly chance, it also has a shot glass full of milky sake in the middle (more on that later!). Ordering this plate gets you five pieces of crawfish, cucumber, and asparagus wrapped in bright yellow rice paper, that’s sprinkled with scallops, and drizzled with sweet miso sauce. Here’s the catch: One of the rolls is filled with major heat-inducing habenero sauce! Intended for sharing, whoever grabs hold of the fiery roll has to down the extinguishing sake. No doubt, it’s worth the gamble!

Tataki South, 1740 Church Street (at Day Street); 415-282-1889.
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Spicy Hulk Roll at Domo, $9.50
You don’t have to be a comic book nerd to know The Hulk can pack a powerful punch, which is why we tip our hat off to Domo for aptly naming this roll. The cucumber-wrapped dish is green on the outside and will jolt you with a kick, just like the superhero. It’s the spicy tuna that makes this roll mean with fiery flavors, balanced by a tart lemon-ponzu sauce. The cucumber sheet surrounding the ingredients (like creamy avocado and crunchy orange tobiko) almost makes the roll too pretty to eat, but we tend to turn into The Hulk ourselves when starved too long. Chomp at it!

Domo, 511 Laguna Street (at Fell Street); 415-861-8887.
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Money Train Roll at Takara, $10.75
The next time your doc tells you to eat your greens, we suggest you hop on the Money Train inside the Castro’s Takara sushi spot. Atop the roll packed with soft spicy tuna and cucumber slices rests a bed of refreshing seaweed salad. The result is a light, texture-rich dish that won’t induce the guilt that comes when munching down sauce-drenched sushi. And for a specialty roll with the term “money” literally in the name, this plate is actually one of the best bargains on the list. We can roll with that!

Takara, 4243 18th Street (between Diamond and Collingwood streets); 415-626-7864.
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Special Roll at Warakubune, $12.75
You know you’re in for a delectable dish when the neighboring table stares in awe when it lands in front of you. And that’s exactly what happened when we ordered the Special Roll at Warakubune, and for good reason. First off, the roll is twice the size in length than most, and sits atop a puddle of two sauces: An ultra-sweet unagi and a zesty sriracha mayo. The Special Roll is like a creature of comfort’s dream come true, with several slices of chunky avocado mixed in with thick crispy pieces of shrimp tempura amidst the rice. After digging in, get ready to adjust your belt a notch or two.

Warakubune, 307 Church Street (at 15th Street); 415- 252-8383.
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Gardener Roll at Umami, $10
There’s a reason Marina hotspot Umami has a line down the block before it's even flipped over the open sign. The sleek, modern resto (designed by a R29 fave) has two spacious floors, and boasts a menu of yummy specialty sushi. But, it’s the Gardener Roll that got our veggie-loving tongues a-wagging. The no-fuss, sauceless dish has ingredients that could easily be picked from one’s backyard, with pieces of squash, carrot, avocado, asparagus, maitake mushrooms, and microcilantro wrapped into it. The mushroom replaces the texture of the fish, and the squash and avocado add to the melt-in-your-mouth creaminess. The locally sourced veggies change with the season, so boogie over to Umami before it springs forward.

Umami, 2909 Webster Street (between Union and Filbert streets); 415-346-3431.
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Ceviche Roll at Kabuto, $6
While the Inner Richmond’s sushi joint Kabuto may appear traditional inside, its menu is anything but. Take the Ceviche Roll, which borrows ingredients from Mexican dishes, including a dollop of — you guessed it — ceviche to cap it off. Be sure to steer clear of the chopsticks for this sushi plate, since it’s intended to be eaten using only your hands. Scoop up the deep-fried crispy seaweed to cradle the rest of the lime-and-sea-salt-zested roll for a smooth bite of halibut goodness. For six bucks, you get two rolls, which is a decent amount if you’re looking to try more than one type of sushi without getting too full.

Kabuto, 5121 Geary Street (between 15th and 16th avenues); 415-752-5652.
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Summer Veggie Roll at Sushi Bistro, $10.95
We admit it was a tough call to pick Sushi Bistro’s most standout roll, since the menu is full of off-the-beaten-path sushi. So, we went with one that’s not listed at all! That’s right, the Summer Veggie is a “secret item” made to order for those of us in the know. We spilled the beans — er, rice — to share with you a yummy vegetarian option in all its meatless glory. Instead of your typical seaweed, Sushi Bistro wraps this roll in Inari bean curd to hold together large pieces of cucumber, mango, and tofu. The roll is deep fried in tempura batter and smothered in a special sweet and veggie-friendly sauce. Whenever you order this crispy clandestine roll, get ready for crunch time!

Sushi Bistro, 2809 24th Street (between York and Bryant streets); 415-933-7100.
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