What happens when Southwestern and Japanese culinary traditions go on a hot date? Mexican sushi.

Sushi Con Gusto

Written by M.V. Moorhead Category: Food Reviews Issue: April 2017
Group Free

Phoenix
Sushi Sonora

Mexican food, done well, is glorious. Sushi, done well, is divine. But Mexican sushi? It doesn’t necessarily follow that the two will go well together, just as good-looking parents don’t always have good-looking offspring. But this trans-Pacific fusion experiment has yielded a few beauties in the Valley, including Sushi Sonora. The unpretentious taqueria-like look of the place makes it clear that this isn’t just a gimmick being peddled to upscale Anglo foodies. I started with what seemed logical: the Sushi Sonora Roll ($11), a deep-fried cut roll, or futomaki, stuffed with carne asada, avocado and “Queso Philadelfia” (cream cheese). It was spectacular, and nearly fatal. I paired the roll with Sushilies ($7), a ring of fried chiles stuffed with shrimp and cream cheese crab salad, drizzled with expanding circles of a sweet, hoisin-like sauce.

Must try: Has it ever bothered you that you couldn’t get a hot dog with your sushi? To the rescue: the Sushi Dog ($11), featuring a weenie, bacon bits, avocado and cream cheese between a rice “bun.”

1400 N. 32nd St., 602-267-1697, sushisonora.com

West Valley
El Tataki Sushi & Mexican Grill

Unlike Sushi Sonora and MV, this sushiria – located across the parking lot from Tanger Outlets – has a Japanese-dominant vibe. Case in point: Entrees are preceded with a little bowl of warm, savory miso soup. Still, the rolls are manifestly bicultural. I tried the Cielo Mar y Tierra ($11.95), a monster of a futomaki representing a broad range of the animal and vegetable kingdoms: beef, chicken, shrimp, cucumber and cream cheese, with orange and eel sauce, served atop shredded carrot salad. Did I forget to mention the whole chile roasted into tender submission at one end? If you love sushi but find it insufficiently filling, this is your antidote. More traditional sushi rolls like the Dragon Roll ($11.50) are no less skillfully executed at El Tataki.

Must try: As an appetizer, the simple veggie rolls ($6.95) come unadorned with sauce —they’re like a salad-sushi fusion.

6922 N. 95th Ave., Glendale, 623-877-9575


East Valley
MV Snacks & Sushi

Based on the name alone, I’d be inclined to like this place. The fact that the menu provides helpful English translations of the descriptions makes me like it better still. Like Sushi Sonora, it tilts more “south of the border” than Land of the Rising Sun in its atmosphere and appointments, but the chefs are plenty skilled in the rice-rolling department. Of the sushi rolls, I opted for the 3 Quesos ($11.50), a tasty trio of Velveeta (or something Velveeta-like), cream cheese and Manchego with rice, cucumber and avocado. I also decided to try something entirely Mexican – the fish taco – figuring that, at $2, how could I go wrong? I couldn’t. It was crispy and delicious.

Must try: OK, so the sushi was good, but what about the snacks? The diablitos ($3.50) combine sweet frozen mango with a variety of sauces, seasonings, tamarinds and crunchy Rielitos snacks for delicious, darling little bites. Sweet, spicy, freeze-y, freaky.

1468 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-265-1254, mvsnacksandsushi.com

Scottsdale
Sushi Brokers

The Scottsdale location of this snazzy fish emporium is not, of course, overtly a Mexican-sushi fusion place. It’s a standard sushi bar, but it does demonstrate the degree to which Mexican and Southwestern influences have crept into sushi menus in recent years. To wit: specialty rolls such as the tempura-battered Chimichanga ($12.50), combining “krab” and avocado topped with sriracha, spicy mayo and eel sauce; or the Sanchez ($14.50), serving up eel, krab stick, avocado and jalapeños with eel sauce. Both have a small but satisfyingly feisty kick without losing the delicacy of the sushi form. Then there’s the tako salad ($8.50), which is only Mexican if you hear it, not eat it, given that tako is Japanese for “octopus.” In any case, it’s quite succulent.

Must try: For something slightly more volatile, try the Seafood Dynamite ($15.99), a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with lobster and krab.

17025 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-515-5000, sushibrokers.com