L.A. is a city with a famed notoriety for excess: over-the-top burgers,
creative California-style pizzas, humongous burritos, and ultra-sugary-sweet smoothie-shakes. Sushi rolls are no exception to La-La land’s obsession with decadence.
Although sushi came to the US via LA’s Little Tokyo nearly 50 years ago, sushi in the traditional Japanese sense is not exactly Roadfood. In the 1970’s, a sushi chef in L.A. invented the simple California roll. It was deliberately invented to appeal to American tastes. Leave it to Los Angeles to reinvent the sushi roll and make it their own. The Americanized sushi roll has gone through some major evolutionary changes utilizing deep-frying, tempura, baked fish, and mayonnaise-based sauces.
The California Roll Factory has achieved the pinnacle in execution of these wacky, crazy rolls. The restaurant itself is “fast-food casual.” Service is at tables or the counter. Behind the counter, an assembly line of sushi roll chefs create your order at lightning speed. Covering the walls are menu item listings of rolls with creative names such as “Hole in One,” “Yammy Jammy,” and “Picasso.” Some rolls, such as “The Michael” and “The Marty,” are named after the loyal customers credited with inventing them.
The Chenzo roll consists of shrimp tempura, crab, and avocado with a tempura crumble topping. The roll is then drizzled in eel sauce which is a thick, savory and sweet teriyaki-style sauce. This combination creates an amazing fusion of tastes and textures. The sweet-crunchy exterior and creamy interior harmonize well with the cooked shellfish.
The Mike roll has a cooked tuna and crab filling and comes with a side of “secret sauce.” This deep-fried roll tastes like a dish that one might find on a dim sum cart in a Chinatown tea room. The “secret sauce,” used for dipping, has a savory flavor reminiscent of Chinese steamed dumpling sauce but with an inexplicable creamy underlying texture.
Unlike typical sushi rolls, the rolls served at the California Roll Factory are enormous. Two orders are more than enough for a hungry appetite but it’s best to go with others so you can try several different rolls at once.
Even though the California Roll Factory deserves an entrance into the annals of LA-style Roadfood, ultimately it’s still a concept that sushi purists love to hate.