What’s Sushi Up to Next? Detroit’s Favorite Roll Gives Us a Clue.
The sushi trend is so far past us, it’ll be touted as “retro” soon enough. Since sushi splashed onto the scene in the early 2000s, the US has made sushi its own, balancing Western excess and sushi’s minimalism with ingredients such as spicy tuna, crawfish, cream cheese, and brown rice. We’ve even created our own standard rolls: the rainbow roll, the spider roll, the dynamite roll, and of course, the california roll.
Detroit sushi has its own cult favorite, but this roll skips the fish, and the restaurant that serves it isn’t even in Detroit.
Royal Oak’s Ronin is a darling of Detroit’s restaurant scene, a suburban stalwart that has survived the sushi onslaught since 2007. When Thrillist named it to its list of best suburban restaurants in Detroit, they raved about the “effortlessly cool and sexy space” and the sushi chef Kaku Usui, who Thrillist and others have named Michigan’s best sushi chef for his pure iterations of classic-style sushi as well as his never-before-seen sushi creations.
On his menu you’ll find ahi tuna pizza, uni sliders, and maki rolls that incorporate ingredients such as pineapple tempura, baked shrimp, fried oysters, and garlic aioli.
The most popular roll on Ronin’s menu, the one most mentioned on review sites, has a name that carries no hints as to what’s inside: the Mountain Dew roll. The only thing the name refers to is the color, actually.
Instead of nori, the roll is wrapped in soy paper in a color best described as “spring green.” The soy paper’s not so much a departure from sushi tradition; it’s used both here and in Japan for the aesthetic appeal of its pretty pastels. However, it’s also a good alternative for those who don’t like the briny flavor of nori or are afraid it’ll take attention away from the other ingredients.
Wrapped in that manenori and a spiral of sushi rice are three vegetables: asparagus, sweet potato, and shiitake mushroom. Great vegetables, sure: they’re tasty and nutrient-rich. But even that can’t account for the roll’s popularity.
So maybe it’s how those veggies are prepared before they’re wrapped in the roll: tempura battered and deep fried. Who could resist?
Area residents aren’t the only ones who are into this roll. Just about every publication or area business that’s written about Ronin mentions the Mountain Dew roll, hopefully signaling a sea change in how American sushi is thought about and presented. To wit:
- “Lovely, just lovely.” – Real Detroit Weekly
- “Try the Mountain Dew roll, it's a favorite.” – Detroit Trolley
- “Ronin … serves up decidedly un-'authentic' items like Ahi Tuna Pizza and Mountain Dew rolls.” – Metromode
So What’s Next?
What’s next for sushi, now that it’s settled into the American mainstream? If this roll from Ronin’s any clue, it’ll be much more polished than hot dogs atop sushi rice, that’s for sure. We’re thinking bolder flavors and more cooked ingredients—deep-fried veggies, grilled beef, and seared shellfish—served with richer sauces and in, of course, brighter colors.
Photo courtesy of Take A Megabite
Though Aimee stays up to date on the latest food trends for the Guide, most of her meals are served cold and cut into tiny, toddler-sized bites.