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Roll Out: Sushi-Kito 

The curious fusion of Mexican sushi takes form on a food truck in South Tucson

click to enlarge Deep fried and full of bacon, Sushi-Kito’s rolls are certainly unique.

Heather Hoch

Deep fried and full of bacon, Sushi-Kito’s rolls are certainly unique.

I had attempted four separate and wholly unsuccessful visits to Sushi-Kito over the span of several months. I went different days, at different times in the afternoon during posted hours of operation, but the truck was always empty. Was this southside sushi truck a myth? Did it stay parked in position just north of Valencia Road off of 12th Avenue just to taunt my intrusiveness? What do they serve? Should you eat sushi off of a truck?

I asked myself these questions about a hundred times until one night I found Sushi-Kito lit up, with foldable tables full of customers waiting to get their orders. Success.

Scanning the menu, it's clear Sushi-Kito's take on rolls is unique. With ingredients like bacon, carne asada, cream cheese, Queso Chihuahua and more, the truck isn't concerned with offering traditional Japanese-style sushi at all. If that's what you're looking for, look elsewhere.

However, if you're interested, as I am, in the interplay between Northern Mexican cuisine and a sushi-like delivery, stay tuned. You see, if any analogy can be drawn between Northern Mexican cooking stereotypes in Mexico and similar stereotypes in the U.S., it's likely those of the Midwest. Both regions are typically criticized for their generous use of meat, cheese and fat, and also for frying the hell out of things. While, as any stereotype, that doesn't fully capture the reality of what Midwestern or Sonoran cooking is, there is a sliver of truth to it. After all, Sushi-Kito's rolls can come either "naturale" or "empanizado" (deep fried).

The type of sushi served at Sushi-Kito, while more novel here in Tucson, is relatively common in the state of Sonora. There, bright ads (especially the ones for sushi chain Qué Rollo) often depict rolls as such: cucumber, avocado and cream cheese with beef, chicken and/or shrimp, wrapped in nori, wrapped in rice and then deep fried. Back at the little truck in Tucson, that roll is called "Cielo, mar y tierra" ($8).

Deep frying and unique ingredients aside, Sushi-Kito stands apart in sheer size of rolls, too. Often coated in a hearty layer of sticky rice, rolls measure about one inch thick and three-to-four inches in diameter. And the rolls themselves aren't the only things that are massive: each order comes with ten separate pieces.

Some rolls come adorned with idiosyncratic names like "evil" or "boneless" or "Vulcan." The one that bears the truck's name is among the more expensive options ($8) and comes complete with small pieces of fried shrimp, fried Queso Chihuahua, crab salad, eel sauce (salsa anguila, unagi) and Sriracha. This particular roll is sold unfried (likely because most of the inner contents are already fried), though you could opt to get any natural roll fried for an up-charge of 50 cents. While I would warn anyone that the fried option can be a bit of a gut bomb, albeit ideal in the drunk food category, the difference that melty, warm cream cheese makes here is a big one. It's just more satisfying when it's fried.

Another common offering in this style of sushi is the vaquero (cowboy) roll ($8), which here comes with beef, chicken, bacon and yellow chile (along with the ubiquitous trinity of avocado, cucumber and cream cheese). The cowboy, of course, comes fried. The aforementioned boneless roll ($7.50) offers the common trappings of the other options, but with chicken coated in buffalo sauce. Then there's the pool roll ($8), which serves up chicken, gooey Queso Chiuahua and bell pepper.

If all of those options sound a little intimidating, the list of natural options (which, as I said before, I would still recommend ordering fried) are a little more simple, showcasing, perhaps, a more approachable way to dip your toe into this type of fusion. Shrimp, beef, crab, chicken or bacon rolls with the Kito trio of sushi accouterments are $7. Of the five, the bacon was an unexpected hit because the saltiness of the meat helped to cut through some of the fatty richness of the cream cheese and avocado. All rolls at Sushi-Kito are served with sliced carrots, crab salad, soy sauce and a spicy, smoky mayo. Drinks are, like many food trucks, any number of sodas packed into a cooler, placed outside of the truck.

Now, it's pretty fruitless to quantify this style of fusion as good or bad because, honestly, you're either going to be down for this hearty translation of what sushi could be or you're going to think it's sheer blasphemy. Maybe you don't like things filled with cream cheese and then deep fried. Maybe you think nori and Queso Chihuahua should have never met. If that's the case for you, it's okay, but Sushi-Kito need not explain why it does what it does any further than pointing to the stream of customers picking up orders on any given night.

It seems about 80 percent of the business Sushi-Kito brings in is through call-in orders, with families of customers waiting in their air conditioned cars while their rolls are prepared on the hot nights, and folks milling about the four white tables when the weather is more temperate. As is the case with any new dining experience, it's a good tip, then, to do as the regulars do and call in your order too. That way, you're not shuffled to the end of the queue of an unknown number of orders; sitting, waiting and wondering.

After all, there's already plenty to think about at Sushi-Kito.

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