Forget tekka maki. Never mind negitoro. California roll? That's so five minutes ago. Here's what I want in my sushi: baby eel, snow crab, mango, coconut and cucumber.
In one roll. Purists may shudder, but in New York City, bizarro sushi combinations are as hot as jalapeño peppers (another popular ingredient). "I love sushi," says Beverly Goodman, a Manhattanite dining at the flashy Ruby Foo's, makers of the eel-and-crab roll. "But like all New Yorkers, I get bored easily. I always want to try something new."
New York chefs are happy to comply. Ruby Foo's serves up unabashedly inauthentic creations, like a grilled pineapple, kiwi and mango maki with a neon-green cilantro sauce. Monster Sushi features the fist-sized Monster Roll: eel, shrimp, avocado, asparagus, mushroom, flying-fish roe and spinach. Even more shocking: Sushi Samba combines salmon, shiso, jalapeño, red onions, eel and gooey melted mozzarella in its El Topo Roll (accompanied by spicy mayo and onion fritters).
O.K., the El Topo tastes sort of like a tuna melt, but some innovations are surprisingly good. Still, at times it feels that messing with sushi the crown jewel of Japanese cuisine is the equivalent of tarting up the Mona Lisa in mascara and a dye job. "It may not be traditional," agrees Jonathan Moore, owner of the Bond Street eatery, "but you gotta admit it's fun.