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Roll With It

Sushi is all about tradition. But several local spots eschew custom and add unusual ingredients to their roll repertoire. Here, five of the more interesting, not to mention tasty, variations.


Poki Hama Roll
Sushi Sasa
Toasted pine nuts and Granny Smith apples sit beside chopped yellowtail, cucumber, kaiware sprouts, soy-based poki sauce, and wasabi tobiko in a small roll with just the right amount of crunch. Wayne Conwell, executive chef and owner, says this creation was initially a poki roll (spicy tuna), but he decided to go with yellowtail because the fish’s oil content worked better with the sauce. 2401 15th St., 303-433-7272,

Gringo Battera Roll
Mozzarella arrives topped with smoked salmon battera—pressed sushi that, when finished, looks like a box-shaped roll—avocado, green onions, and a drizzle of a spicy mayo and “grandma” sauce (a slightly spicier and less sweet version of eel sauce). Sushi chef Neil Barrales says he tried the combo with other cheeses, such as cream cheese, but mozzarella was the cleanest—and the other kitchen chefs gave the dish two thumbs up. 9625 E. Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village, 303-799-9991,


1800 Tequila Sea Bass Roll
Kona Grill
Sea bass—marinated for 72 hours, battered, and fried—jalapeño, cilantro, and avocado are wrapped in soy paper and topped with a sauce that hints of tequila and lime. Rob Shoaf, head sushi chef at the restaurant’s San Antonio location, came up with the idea to incorporate tequila when he learned he was transferring to Texas. “People down here [in Texas] are used to tequila and love the flavor of it,” he says. Denverites have taken to the roll, too. 3000 E. First Ave., 720-974-1300,

Shiso Honi Roll
Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar
A rich grouping of eel, crab, shiso, and soy is updated with a hint of honey, which leaves your taste buds enjoying a sweet finale. Culinary director Scott Nakasone wanted to add an extra touch to the already-sweet shiso and eel. “We were just having fun,” he says. “It’s kind of a dessert roll.” It also provided the chance to name the roll in the playful and risqué manner that’s become a Hapa signature. Multiple locations,

Rocky Mountain Roll
Ghin Asian Blend & Sushi
Combining salmon, avocado, and cream cheese is nothing new, which is why executive chef Michael Field tops off this roll with a strawberry-jalapeño reduction. Over time, Field has refined the sauce, switching out raspberries for strawberries and perfecting the fruit-to-jalapeño ratio. “Salmon and strawberries go really well together,” he says. “With the raw salmon, the acid from the strawberry kind of cuts through the fattiness.” 220 Union Blvd., Lakewood, 303-914-9999,

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