Gohan Japanese Restaurant

Whimsical sushi rolls rank somewhere between Appletinis and sausage logs in my gastronomical repertoire. Which is to say, I avoid them at all costs. Unless they come with tater tots. Then, it’s a totally different story.

Mixing a little bit of wacky into its opening menu, Gohan gets the joke. Just a few days old, the ultra-modern sushi spot does straight-faced nigiri and sashimi along with a few ringers like the ‘Napoleon Dynamite Roll’, a tempura roll stuffed with eel, cream cheese and snow crab, garnished with, yep, Napoleon’s iconic lunchtime favorite, tater tots. “Its my favorite movie,” says baby-faced chef/owner Steve Tam with a shrug as he table hops between customers.

Already pulling in a solid lunch-time crowd into the sleek, Zen-inspired spot, er, in the middle of Petaluma’s Redwood Gateway Shopping Center (keep an open mind), Gohan’s sushi crew is turning out some red-hot fish. Frankly, I’m sad they missed out on BiteClub’s recent Sushi Smackdown, because I think they’d make a top contender.

A bit surprised that BiteClub had already sussed out his spot, Tam is apologetic about the still-limited menu (there is a full sushi bar, but entrees are still a bit slim). Call me less than worried.

If you go, best bets include the Gohan sushi bento, a bonanza of food for just $15 including miso and cucumber salad, three pieces of sushi, four pieces of sashimi, a California roll and Spicy Tuna Roll and a salad. Good eatin’.

Also try the ‘New style’ sashimi (a little on the pricey side), that includes several slices of sashimi with ponzu citrus or other sauces in an artistic arrangement guaranteed to impress your date. (You might also think about cuddling up next to the floating fireplace).

The menu also trots out Japanese standards like Chicken teriyaki and tempura for less adventurous eaters, along with beer and sake and a sinful green tea cheesecake.

But adventure is what makes life, well, bearable some days. And taking a chance on whimsical makimono that comes with tots? Well, that’s just the icing on the sushi.

Gohan Japanese Restaurant, 1367 McDowell #E-5, Petaluma (in the Kohl’s shopping center)