“Mexican sushi” may sound like a paradox, but it’s a big thing in the Sinaloa region of our neighbor to the south. Culichi Town at Fiesta Rancho brings Las Vegas both the atypical hybrid and the fun, raucous culture that surrounds it. It’s an experience not to be missed.
Sinaloan-style sushi — almost exclusively inside-out rolls — is wrapped around cooked meat, fowl and seafood, which means the rolls tend to be heavier and blander than their traditional Japanese counterparts. Instead of wasabi and ginger, Culichi Town’s rolls are served with shredded carrots, sliced scallions and sometimes logs of a seasoned paste of surimi, or “krab,” and the server brings a phalanx of sauces that lean toward the mayonnaisey, including one tinged with chipotle. Most of the rolls contain avocado and cream cheese. Oh, and a lot of them are coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried like a taquito.
Somewhere, a sushi master is weeping.
But the best thing about fusion treatments is how fun they can be, and that’s certainly the case here. The Vegas Roll ($12.95) has cream cheese (or “Philadelphia,” in Culichi Town parlance), avocado, cooked chicken, beef, bacon and Monterey cheese tucked inside, and arrives on a platter with squiggles of salsa verde dotted with sriracha. Additional sauces would’ve been overkill; what made this perfectly executed roll so interesting was the interplay of the crunchy exterior and all that protein within, its neutral nature awakened by the salsa and sriracha.
Mar y tierra ($10.95), a roll common to most Sinaloan sushi places, is a combination of cream cheese, avocado, beef and rice, plus some shrimp to jazz things up a little.
Not all of the rolls are fried; some are designated “Rolles Naturales.” The signature Culichitown Roll ($13.95) was filled with — yes — cream cheese and avocado, plus surimi, topped with shrimp, more cream cheese and chunks of crab, with dabs of eel sauce on the side. This one had a little more zip than the beef rolls.
Speaking of zing, the ceviche tostada dishes include one that starts with a ring of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos ($11.95), centered with the customary shrimp “cooked” with citrus juice and mixed with chopped onion, cucumber, tomatoes and cilantro. It was excellent (Cheetos notwithstanding), lots of crunch and fire and an interplay of flavors and textures.
A starter of Hot Chiles ($6.95) was three caribe peppers stuffed with Monterey cheese, surimi and cream cheese, breaded and fried and served with a mound of rice scattered with more scallions and carrots. The peppers were excellent, but not for the faint of heart.
The menu is in Spanish, so if you’re not conversant — well, what did we do before smartphones and Google? There was no communication problem with any of the helpful staff, from the hostess who announced “we only serve sushi and seafood” to warn off any taco trollers, to the server who issued a warning before the band — a Banda band — took the stage.
“It’s going to be loud,” he said, as he stood at the opposite end of the restaurant from the musicians. It was an understatement, the gleaming brass instruments delivering a joyous aural fiesta so committed it was impossible to hear anything else, including the server. It’s a good thing checks can be paid using sign language.
Culichi Town, Fiesta Rancho, 2400 N. Rancho Drive; 702-631-7000 or fiestarancho.sclv.com
The essence: A cultural as well as culinary fiesta.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella onTwitter.