It was odd going into a sushi restaurant intending to eat Twinkies, peanut butter, and Nutella, but that’s what I set out to do during my visit to Sushi Sushi, a small restaurant in Manhattan. Upon entering, I realized it was most definitely an establishment that catered to the raw fish aficionado. Counters and stools lined the exposed brick walls and a bar loaded with salmon, tuna, and other sushi staples stood in the back. This wasn’t a dessert café, but I was excited to see what it has in store for me.
The fast and casual establishment aims to cater to all Japanese tastes and eating styles (the menu includes vegan and gluten-free options along with ramen and rice bowls), which is one of the reasons the funky dessert roll idea was born: The owner wanted to introduce children to the idea of sushi but with familiar flavors rolled into a fun package.
I started with what I call Dessert Sushi 101: The Peanut Butter and Jelly Roll, a simple morsel made from the classic lunch ingredients (they actually use Skippy peanut butter and Smucker’s jam!) spread on flattened white bread and rolled up sushi-style. The PB&J pinwheels transported me back to childhood, when Mom cut my sandwich into quarters to make it more manageable for my little hands. This rolled up version, with the crusts cut off of course, comes in a pop-in-your-mouth size (well, for me – it might be two bites for a kid) and were really tasty in a nostalgic way. I was so tickled, I could have eaten these all night long – and I might demand that all future peanut butter and jelly sandwiches be served to me in this way. (Ok, so they really brought out the kid in me!)
The Banana-Nutella with Strawberries Roll takes those familiar flavors to another level – Sushi 201 if you will, the next step in the dessert roll/sushi roll hybrid. The twist is that the banana and Nutella are in an actual maki roll, complete with sweetened rice and seaweed and topped with strawberries. After I took a bite, there was no mistaking this was sushi, with the texture of the rice and the flavor of the seaweed; I was then oddly greeted with the sweetness of the chocolate and fruit. It seems like an odd combination; the textures of the rice and seaweed definitely scream “sushi,” while the banana and Nutella suggests anything but. I kept eating the pieces to contemplate this new flavor territory, but one thing was for sure, they were fun to eat and tasty as well. Any kid like me would be in heaven.
I was a bit more skeptical of my final dessert, the Twinkies Tempura. Years ago, I had a disappointing encounter with the fair-food version of this snack: The deep-fry process seemed to evaporate all the cream filling, which as any Twinkie connoisseur can tell you, is just as important – if not more – than the cake surrounding it. My fears subsided the minute this version came out; served cut in half, the glorious Twinkie filling was on display, abundant, and slightly oozy in the best way possible. A decadent dish that’s a bit of a sugar overload for this grown-up gal, it’s tasty new take on a familiar taste – the perfect dessert to share.
Sushi can take itself too seriously sometimes, but these whimsical desserts remove all pretensions. So go ahead and skip the chopsticks, eat with your hands, and transport yourself back to the sugar-coated joy evoked by these childhood flavors.