Of all the rites and customs that men have passed down to each other through the ages, none is stranger than the I-can-eat-spicier-hot-food-than-you-can ritual. Certain members of the rougher sex will risk all manner of public humiliation and bodily harm to participate in this activity, and a small subset of eateries have dedicated themselves to seeing that these men are indulged.
Locally, the all-time champ in this regard has been Grand Central Station in West Sac, which offers as a condiment Dave’s Insanity Sauce, the closest thing you’ll ever find to bottled thermonuclear waste.
A buddy of mine, in a fit of naïve bravado, once slathered Insanity Sauce on a cheese steak like it was ketchup. Within seconds, his face turned molten red and he doubled over in pain. Arteries and veins popped out of his skull. It took him half an hour to determine he didn’t need an ambulance.
Dave’s Insanity Sauce is quite literally insane, and I’ve tasted nothing hotter.
Until last weekend at Sumo Sushi.
It was date night, and the Junebug and I were headed to the movies in Laguna. To kill time, we usually stop at Borders on the corner of Laguna and Bruceville; this time we went next door to Sumo Sushi for dinner.
Sumo Sushi is one of those places that likes to push tradition. There’s sashimi, nigiri, teriyaki and all the usual Japanese fare, plus more than a few signature dishes, such as warm poki salad, sautéed red miso scallops, and—this is the one that immediately caught my attention—the crazy spicy tuna shooter.
“What’s this?” I asked the waitress.
She gave me a look, like, oh no, it’s one of them.
“That is extremely hot,” she warned. “You have to sign a waiver in order to eat it.”
What? Was she trying to talk me into it?
The waiver read as follows:
“I, the undersigned, understand that I am consuming the Crazy Spicy Tuna roll at my own risk. The Crazy Spicy Tuna roll consists of raw tuna, habanero chili peppers and various chili sauces, all of which are considered very SPICY and may cause digestive discomfort or other complications.
“If I obtain complications from the consumption of the above sushi, I will not hold Sumo Sushi liable. I assume the risk of any complications arising from the consumption of the Crazy Spicy roll.”
We sampled some of the other dishes as we waited for the main attraction. Red miso scallops were lightly seared and served in savory brown miso sauce; poki salad featured crunchy julienned daikon and succulent slices of shiitake mushrooms. We also enjoyed the “Spicy Mikey” (a hamachi and maguro roll seasoned with Tabasco) and Korean sirloin with scampi. Meanwhile, waitresses continued to warn me about the crazy spicy tuna shooter.
“I’ve never seen anyone survive it,” said one. Another told of a man who had gotten crazy spicy sauce in his eye and had to be hauled off screaming to the bathroom.
Then it arrived.
Two nori rolls, filled with diced tuna covered with the reddest, meanest looking hot sauce I’ve ever seen. It was thick, and seemed to glow with an inner heat. I plucked out a cube of tuna the size of a pea and slipped it in my mouth.
You know when you’re barbecuing and you saturate the charcoals with half a can of lighter fluid on a really hot day and then throw a match on it and it nearly blows the roof off your house?
That’s kind of what that one tiny cube of crazy spicy tuna shooter was like. My gums screamed. My esophagus blistered. My stomach heaved.
I pushed the dish away.
Somewhere in Sacramento, there may be someone who is man enough for the crazy spicy tuna shooter.
It isn’t me.
Now, don’t all of you guys rush out there at once, ya hear?