Trying to put our finger on a chameleon of a local roll

Ra Sushi’s Viva Las Vegas Roll

A California Roll is a California Roll is a California Roll. Okay, if you look really hard you might find a few minor variations, but the Cali Roll’s ingredients and presentation are pretty much uniform across all sushi joints in America. The same cannot be said about the roll named for our beloved city. Peruse the menus of a dozen local restaurants and you’re likely to find 12 different items called the Las Vegas Roll. Many contain cream cheese, most are deep-fried and some use spicy tuna, but really, no industry standard Vegas Roll seems to exist.

If one did, what would it look like? It could be flashy, like RA Sushi’s Viva Las Vegas Roll, which is adorned like a showgirl with a sliced lotus root headdress. Or maybe it should be even more daring, like the jalapeño and spicy sauce-topped salmon, avocado and cream cheese roll offered at Benihana. Or we could get all metaphorical: Yes, our city roll is deep-fried; it’s a jab at our struggling health-care system.

According to Osaka owner Gene Nakanishi, a sushi roll obtains its names after being popularized by one chef. Others borrow and spread the recipe. His West Vegas Roll consists of tempura tuna, salmon, yellowtail and avocado, all wrapped in seaweed. Other chefs obviously disagree. Perhaps the sushi world needs to stage a Las Vegas Roll Battle and get to the bottom of this once and for all. Or just maybe, the fact that the Las Vegas Roll isn’t uniform at all makes it completely reflective of this strange place we call home.


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