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Wasabi close-up photo

The plate: Freshness is the key to Wasabi’s sushi, says MaryRay Katsuma, who works in the restaurant and is married to owner/chef Ken Katsuma.

“We go out ourselves to pick the right vegetables — avocado, asparagus, kiwi,” MaryRay Katsuma said. Wasabi also relies on several different vendors to provide the freshest possible salmon, tuna, eel, shrimp and other types of seafood in its rolls. And, as they prepare the rice, Wasabi’s chefs carefully adjust its temperature — at times using a Japanese fan — to maximize fluffiness, Katsuma says.

Fifteen to 20 types of sushi appear on Wasabi’s menu, depending on the season.

Why it defines Madison: Katsuma says that some of the UW-Madison students who eat at Wasabi come for sushi “every single day lunch and dinner, and get the same thing.”

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So, Wasabi’s staff eventually began naming sushi rolls after its most frequent customers.

There’s the Kathy, which features tempura salmon and avocado. There’s the Kelsey, a “reverse” (rice-on-the-outside) roll with shrimp and green onion. And, there’s the Troy. This roll doesn’t appear on the current menu, but Katsuma said that when the restaurant has the ingredients, Wasabi will make the Troy for customers who ask for it. (The ingredients, like the roll’s existence, are semi-secret).

“Troy was somebody’s boyfriend,” Katsuma said. Evidently, Troy’s girlfriend began ordering him the roll and his name “just stuck because he loved that one,” Katsuma said.

— Kate Stein

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