The first bite is all about the texture. The cool give of raw sushi-grade tuna, then the crunch of the fried rice crust, which gives way to the density of the packed rice itself, the anchor of the dish.
The second bite is all about the flavor. There is the tuna, clean and fresh, with the kick of Sriracha and a bit of Simon’s flavored mayo “yum-yum” sauce. Next, the sweetness of a soy reduction for dipping comes on strong along with another hit of Thai garlicky spice. Eventually, the light sweetness of the sushi rice mellows everything out and signals that it’s time for another bite.
Kerry Simon says the tuna tartare served on crispy rice is one of the most popular appetizers at Simon at Palms Place, and it’s not hard to see why. Cut into bite-sized pieces, the dish, which layers spicy bluefin tuna on a deep fried rectangle of packed sushi rice, practically flies off the plate. If Simon delivered, I would eat this at least twice a week.
Since the restaurant has no intention of sending employees to my home or office on a regular basis, we snagged chef Simon for a tuna tartare tutorial. Watch the how-to video above and follow the recipe below to recreate this addictive appetizer at home.
Simon’s Tuna Tartare with Crispy Rice
For the spicy tuna:
6 ounces minced sushi-grade tuna belly
1 tablespoon masago (smelt roe)
1 drop sesame oil
½ teaspoon Sriracha (some reserved for garnish)
For the crispy rice:
2 1/2 cups cooked and seasoned sushi rice (Find a recipe for preparing sushi rice here.)
1 sheet of nori
½ cup toasted black and white sesame seeds (some reserved for garnish)
1 avocado, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sliced green onions
1 cup unagi or sweet soy sauce
Mix together all ingredients for the spicy tuna and reserve.
Take half the sushi rice and spread on a piece of plastic wrap. Press down firmly until you have a rectangle of rice approximately 1/8 inch thick. (This does not need to be exact.) Top with nori, and add the remaining rice, repeating the process with the rice. Add sesame seeds to both sides of the rice, and wrap in plastic wrap. Use a large firm surface (like a large plate) to press down on the rice and form it into a rectangle.
Unwrap the rice and deep-fry it in a 350-degree fryer until golden brown (approximately four minutes), cool on towels to drain excess oil. Cut rice into 20 equal pieces. Top each piece of rice with ¼ ounce of the spicy tuna mixture. Add an avocado slice on each piece and a small dot of Sriracha. Plate the crispy rice on top of a bed of sweet soy, and garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds.