The Nacho Tuna Maki at new Boulder fast-casual Japanese eateryMotomaki
is almost as big as a Chipotle burrito (and even comes wrapped in foil); it has the word "nacho" in the name, which generally indicates good things to come; and it seems somehow healthy and audacious at the same time. Motomaki, from the folks who brought you
, specializes in big rolls, Japanese flavors andpoke
(pronounced "poke-eh" or "poke-ee," depending on whether you ask a Hawaiian or a Texan).
Those who eat sushi regularly are already familiar with the word "maki," which generally refers to cylindrical rolls cut into bite-sized pieces (as opposed to mako, which I've already covered). Motomaki's rolls are considerably larger than standard maki and are compressed into something closer in size and shape to a catalytic converter (which may be the reason for the "moto" part of the restaurant's name).
Motomaki's Nacho Tuna Maki may have been inspired by Mexican cuisine, but the result is distinctly Japanese, with nothing that stands out as south-of-the-border. The roll contains diced and seasoned raw tuna, mango salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and sriracha aioli, which blend together to form a spicy, fruity slurry between layers of rice. It gets a little added nacho crunch from tempura asparagus and crispy onions.
Despite the size, the potential slipperiness of the ingredients, and the papery nori seaweed wrap, the maki isn't difficult or messy to eat. The rice serves as a kind of sponge for the sauce, while the foil wrapper ensures that the bundle holds together. Pity those, though, who unwrap prematurely and end up with a handful of savory rice pudding instead of a tidy silver package.
Americans love value when it comes to food -- size is the surest visual cue to indicate money well spent -- but we also hate it when spandex-clad CrossFit practitioners glare at us when we almost run them down on our way out of the Good Times drive-thru. Motomaki satisfies the clamor for big food that isn't necessarily heavy.
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It's also different; with so many pizza places and burger joints springing up around town, it's refreshing to see a little innovation, even if the food is a simple variation on the sushi theme. Mostly though, Motomaki is cheery and fun, like Hello Kitty, only without the annoying cartoon cats.