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Japan + Philadelphia at Nozomi

Not-so-ancient Japanese secret

The Philadelphia Hand Roll. Throw some soy sauce in there and nosh it like lox and schmear.
  • The Philadelphia Hand Roll. Throw some soy sauce in there and nosh it like lox and schmear.

Nozomi Sushi & Teriyaki

4637 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa

It’s been more than a couple years since I’ve started submitting Feast! stories, and there are a few wonderful places I haven’t been willing to share with the general public because I don’t want y’all blowing up my spot. A great example is Nozomi Sushi & Teriyaki.

Admittedly, I’ve never tried the teriyaki, because the sushi’s just too good not to order. Nozomi used to offer an all-you-can-eat sushi lunch special that inspired me to great heights of gluttony for 25 bucks, including tip. That special was axed years ago, and I miss it often. But the quality of fish remains high, and I still make a seasonal pilgrimage.

Nozomi Sushi & Teriyaki

Nozomi Sushi & Teriyaki

These days, the lunch specials are more humane — reduced-price 5-piece rolls and nigiri for under 2 bucks apiece. While I can no longer afford to gorge on 20 pieces of fish as I did in my prime, these prices still allow me to sample a few pieces, determine which I like best that day, and then order a second round of my favorite nigiri to finish the meal. On my most recent trip, the hamachi (yellowtail) and ono (wahoo) were particularly delicate and flavorful, and I capped lunch with three apiece.

I also added a guilty pleasure. Hand rolls are not on the lunch special menu, but there’s one that I’ve come to crave: the Philadelphia.

Using cream cheese in sushi rolls may be a little controversial. A lot of people, gaijin included, consider it an aberration. No, it’s not the most authentic ingredient, and given that Japanese cuisine is one of the only in the world that developed unmolested by global commerce and influence, people are more likely to be upset by Western deviations in sushi than, say, the appearance of chili peppers in a Chinese stir fry.

If I suggest sharing a Philadelphia roll while dining with friends, there’s almost always somebody who shouts me down. But I don’t hear people complain that Italian cuisine adopted the America-indigenous tomato as its own. Or that avocado has become as prevalent in sushi rolls as tempura shrimp.

I’m down with ditching authenticity if it means a little cream cheese with my salmon, itself a late add to the sushi canon — even if I have to go it alone. Which makes this cone of nori hand-rolled around salmon, avocado, and cream cheese just the right size add-on to lunch.

Nozomi can cater to sushi purists every day of the week with a wide variety of excellent fish at reasonable prices. Plus, they don’t judge my cream cheese indulgence or when I overdo it on the uni (sea urchin).

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