Is a pizza with no sauce, no crust, and no cheese still a pizza? The chefs at Nami, a Japanese restaurant in Toronto, certainly think so. Their unique take on pizza, one that has been adopted by other Japanese restaurants across the Canadian city, involves deep-frying sushi rice for a crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside crust and topping it off with sushi-grade fish in a nose-tingling umami sauce of wasabi and soy.
According to a piece in the Toronto Star, it all began with one itamae in the early 1990s. Kaoru Ohsada, originally from Kobe, Japan, was working at Nami when he decided to experiment with sushi. Trained in French cuisine, Ohsada moved to Canada in the 1980s and began working at Japanese restaurants. The Star article notes that, due to his culinary background, Ohsada shared none of the deference of traditionalists to sushi, and welcomed new techniques. A restaurant meal of smoked salmon on a hash brown sparked the idea to do something similar in sushi form. Ohsada fried some sushi rice, topped it with sushi-grade salmon and garnished with chopped onions and tobiko (fish roe). Customers loved it, and his bosses were pleased to have some use for leftover rice. Ohsada named his dish “sushi pizza,” and if you stretched your imagination to its furthest limit, it did slightly resemble a homemade mini pizza. Ohsada later improved upon his original creation by adding a drizzle of spicy mayonnaise and a soy-wasabi sauce to the garnish of jewel-like black and red tobiko. Other versions of sushi pizza include toppings of crispy fried onions, pickled ginger, nori, and even sometimes avocados.
This Toronto trend has crossed over to the United States, with some poké restaurants serving sushi pizza that truly resembles the traditional pie. Chefs stack sushi rice on a triangular wedge of nori, top it off with fresh fish and other sushi ingredients, and roll the wide end of the nori to resemble the crusty edge of a pizza slice. Whether this truly constitutes pizza is anybody’s guess (it doesn’t), but its deliciousness has never been in question.
Where to Try It
Nami Restaurant55 Adelaide St. E, Toronto, Ontario, M5C 1K6, Canada
The real McCoy of sushi pizza.