Five. That's how many times the specials board describing the Nuclear Roll at Osaka Sushi said "very" before "spicy." Ten. That's how many ice cubes were on the plate owner Jay Chung gave me before I started inhaling this tuna roll topped with liquid fire. "Just in case," he said with a chuckle.
Thirty. That's how many minutes passed after I finished the thing before my mouth started to feel normal again.
But I did it: I finished the restaurant's signature food challenge. And for my efforts and pain, I received a free bottle of sake -- albeit the smallest bottle of sake I've seen. When the Nuclear Roll stole my ability to taste and brought tears to my eyes, I was envisioning a bottle big enough to take away some of the pain.
The Nuclear Roll, which sells for $8.95, is essentially a spicy tuna roll on steroids. Each of the eight pieces is topped with an excessive amount of sauce that head chef Goro Shimizu says is made from chile oil, habanero and jalapeno peppers and an Asian chile sauce. The first two pieces revealed a hint of tuna and rice, but the following six tasted only like a mouthful of habanero and Sriracha.
Chung says a few people try to eat the roll each day -- and two or three out of ten actually manage to finish it. My strategy was to wolf the roll down just about as fast as I could -- and suffer later. And suffer I did.
I like spicy food. A lot. Oatmeal is about the only thing I eat regularly that I don't try to spice up. And on the right night, after enough beers, I wouldn't put it past me. But there's a line between enjoyably spicy and annihilation-spicy, and the Nuclear Roll took a bounding leap over that line, as any food challenge should.
After the fourth piece, my face was assuredly as scarlet as the sauce causing my color change. My co-worker, who was holding the camera, snickered, as did other diners, as if to say, "I'm just glad that's not me."
"I tried it, and I couldn't even eat one piece," admitted Chung, who bought the restaurant about six years ago and added the Nuclear Roll challenge about a year ago.
Plenty of water, most of my sake, several pieces of sushi and about thirty minutes helped bring me back to life. Osaka won our Best Neighborhood Sushi Restaurant in 2008, so it's much more than this tongue-scorching roll.
Still, I could feel the roll burning through my digestive system for the rest of the day, but all in all, the roll is tolerable if, that is, you're a spicy food enthusiast. And I'm only slightly worried that the tingling I felt in the back of my head was a sign of long-term damage.
Watch me suffer above, and leave suggestions for other food challenges in the comments.
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