Jumpin’ on the Ship to Roll

black3by Nafeisa Shukair-Farley

We have all been amazed by the talents of an Itamae (sushi chef) and wonder how they make the beautiful yummy rolls of deliciousness.  My curiosity has been mounting since I first tried sushi years ago especially how the rolls get rolled and look so pretty.  So when Black Ship Little Katana offered the opportunity to make their signature roll “Katana 101,” I said, “はい、お願いします (yes please)!”

When I arrived at Black Ship which is located downtown Dallas at the Omni Hotel, I was promptly greeted by Vice President Kenneth Choe and he presented me with the traditional sushi chef coat (thank goodness it matched my outfit).  Before I had put on the jacket, I was a bit nervous but once the jacket slid on and I tied the sashes, I became empowered and ready to roll.  But first, I had to wash my hands. 


Once the hand washing was complete and the plastic gloves on, I met my teacher, Yama-san, is this amazingly patient man who would be my best friend for at least the next 30 minutes.  He had no idea what he was getting into but he would soon find out.

First, we laid out the makisu (sushi mat) and spread the white sticky rice over the makisu from edge-to-edge, then the seaweed paper which fascinates me with its thin layer and texture.  Next is the sliced salmon which is not easy to slice into the “just-right sized” pieces with your hands shaking…I had Yama-san help me so that all my fingers would stay attached.  Then, this heavenly stick of cream cheese was laid on top of the salmon (cream cheese makes everything perfect) which was the easiest ingredient to add to the roll. Yama-san handed me half an avocado and showed me how to slice it still in the skin but not keep the skin on and not cut my fingers.  Scared and confused?  So was I and this process took the longest time for me (this is the first time Yama-san had to showcase his good “being-patient” skills).  What took Yama-san seconds took me minutes while holding my breath.

Now the guts of the Katana 101 was complete and it was time to roll.  Well, let’s just say my rolling was more of sphering but I did it – it was not as pretty as Yama-sans roll but it looked good!  Yama-san then told me I had to “square off” the sphere and I said, “What?”  Why square off what is supposed to be a roll and this began the next test of patience as I could not properly square my sphere.

Yama-san took over and explained that the roll has to be squared off so you can top it with additional items.  I had to take the makisu off at this point and again I held my breath worried that my beginning masterpiece would fall apart but it didn’t.  Once I took a breath, I topped it with spicy shredded salmon and three dots (like a Dalmatian said Yama-san) of spicy tuna.




You would think that all the work I had just done was the most part of the process but no, it was not!  I had to cover the roll with plastic wrap (keeps the roll in place) and cut it into pieces.  Yama-san gave me this big huge razor-sharp knife (with patience and trust) and told me to cut the roll.  Without breathing, I cut the middle, two ends, then sliced the rest.  My slices were not even but it stayed together and I was able to plate it with no problem.  Topped my roll off with spicy mayo and eel sauce (I was generous in this process), added some pickled ginger and wasabi and voila… my first ever Katana 101 roll was complete and I took exhaled.  Kenneth tried my roll and seemed to be impressed with not only the look, but the taste as well.


As I slid off my sushi chef jacket (I tried to keep it), I conquered making a roll and felt grateful for the experience.  The staff made me feel welcomed and I cannot enough good things about Yama-san and his patience.


I highly recommend you patronize Black Ship Little Katana and sit at the sushi bar to watch Yama-san and team at work.  You will be amazed and in awe of their talent and precision while making some of the best sushi in town!  Tell Yama-san Nafeisa says hi!

Each week Nafeisa (Naf) checks into a new restaurant or pub to create a signature dish or cocktail. Follow her as she takes lessons from the very best in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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