fb-pixel Skip to main content

Was it March madness that drove them there? A desire to play the fool with their food?

It’s hard to say what led seven Boston Globe staffers to play Wasabi Roulette.

Wasabi Roulette is an item on the menu of Hojoko Japanese Tavern, a Japanese restaurant with a pulsating rock soundtrack attached to The Verb Hotel in the Fenway neighborhood.

The rules are simple. Diners who order the meal are served identical-looking pieces of a sushi roll. All but one piece is made of hamachi yellowtail and shiso. The other piece is packed with a hidden wallop of wasabi, the green, pungent, horseradish-like condiment, small doses of which are essential to sushi. Normally, one player bites the wasabi bullet, and the game is over.


The Globe decided to keep playing until just one player and one piece of sushi remained.

But as these reporters would soon see, the game was not for the faint of heart. Or the tender of esophagus. (Note: We do not recommend that you try this at home.)

The first to fall was Globe reporter and noted food critic Nestor Ramos, a 38-year-old native of New Haven. He did not react violently, and instead saluted, grabbed his coat, and stalked off. He was later seen wandering aimlessly around The Verb’s outdoor pool.

Next to suffer the taste of defeat was Steve “Wildman” Annear, the Globe’s 31-year-old digital reporter, who maxes out on the squat rack at 230 pounds. The muscles in his eyes are not nearly as strong; Annear was the only one at the table who failed to notice the telltale streak of green on the losing roll. Disgusted with himself as much as the burning substance in his throat, Annear also left the table.


A revolver fires only one bullet at a time, but the clever Hojoko chefs decided to pack two rolls with wasabi for the next round. Lifestyle reporter Dugan Arnett , 32, a genteel native of Blue Springs, Mo. fumbled with the chopsticks, and was the last to consume his roll. Noting the bucolic visages of the others at the table, he drawled a note of alarm, doubled over, and gagged demurely. That was when the force of the wasabi hit crazed veteran hack David Filipov, who forced open a glass door leading to the pool area and jumped into the water, fully clothed.

It was Astead W. Herndon, at 23 exactly three decades younger than Filipov, who displayed the wisdom to sample the piña colada served in a baby bottle with the sushi.

“It actually makes you feel better,” said the pride of Chicago, leading Filipov, now clad in a Zebra-themed robe generously offered by concerned Hojoko staff, to drain the rest of the bottle.

That left Meagan Dion, 25, of Quincy, who had never liked sushi before, and, after swallowing a ball of Wasabi larger than a Wollaston Beach clam, might never eat it again.

Cristela Guerra, 31, who lives in Roslindale but who hails from “a distant Isthmus,” displayed otherworldy grace in victory.

“I kind of want to try it,” she said.

The others, those who could still see, watched her expression for the knowing nod, the recognition, the grimace of agony. But nothing of the kind happened.

“Yeah, she’s a strong lady,” someone said. Another handed her the Zebra robe.

The Doors classic “People are Strange” played.

Chastened, forever changed, the players limped off the stage.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.

David Filipov can be reached at David.Filipov@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidfilipov.