November 10, 2006

For the Vecinos

Salsa Sushi, Hip Hop, Beer and a Couple of Itos

By El Vecino

We’re hip hop heads, my cousin Robert and I. We love finding underground sounds, especially mixed tapes you can listen to, without too much pop interruption, from a to z. Just soul, something with a lot of syncopated rhyme schemes (Tribe Called Quest, Camp Lo, Pharcyde) and if a deejay can somehow mix in a heavy keyboard and massive scratch attacks with some wooden snake charmers, I’m good, especially on my second pint of Sierra Nevada.

My head is bobbing.

Thus was our Wednesday night at the Honey Beehive, a neighborhood pub, café, club, whatever, across from City College. Although we appreciated the mixes by DJs Ricky Wrecks and Mada, we were there for the food, Salsa Sushi, a new Wednesday night menu provided by a couple of coast to coast drifters, Tijuana Victor and Ms. Mango **real names not included**.

Luckily the food was an innovative and delectable treat, because Robert sure knows how to tell someone his level of satisfaction. Thus was the problem for the bartender.

“Plastic cups?! Are you serious?” But what can you say in his defense? Nothing’s better than frosty glasses, and it has been a long time since I, myself, have been to a bar where they served beer in plastic glass-look-a-like cups, room temperature no less. Turning into beer snobs in our old age. Though, it takes me at least three pints to beef up the courage to say, “Hey! Can you put some ice in this?”

Okay, I’m not the bad ass barfly my elders were. Hey, I was hanging in a Vietnamese dive called the Bait Tank by mid-teens; warm beer I guess I can live with, bad food and K-Fed and I’m out. So, we stayed.

The barista finally sicced Tijuana Victor on us anyway when, in mid-pint, Robert decided he’d had enough and switched to Corona glass bottles. Salsa Sushi seems like a project for now and has been at the Beehive for only a couple of months. The menu’s not abundant but the food is truly unique in that it takes Mexican ingredients and applies them to Japanese form.

From recommendation, we ordered the Mango Bling-Ito. It’s a sushi roll, but instead of wrapping up my chicken, sautéed onions, and steamed rice in seaweed, they use tortilla. There are two rolls which make about eight bites ($7). Not bad at all. We also ordered the Kong-Ito ($7), same design but with smoked salmon, queso fresco and cilantro. All plates dressed with aguacate and their signature yogurt chipotle sauce, a sweet side, different.

They’ve also introduced the Mangolicious Salsa, a salsa fresca that’s borderline gazpacho with mango chunks thrown in the mix. This you can eat solo with your chop sticks.

There’s also the Palm-Ito with chicken, tofu and hoisin sauce ($7), the No-Mito with crispy tofu and sauteed onions ($6) and extra sides, the salsas ($1).

The idea of mixing the Japanese and Mexican traditions together actually came from a little restaurant I won’t name (are you mad?) in Tijuana, where Victor’s from. He wasn’t quite pleased with the product so he perfected it. Ms. Mango, a New Jersey native who breaks for, well, Mangos, has been apprenticing under Victor for about a year now and heard that the Beehive recently lost their previous Wednesday night sushi chef.

The kitchen became available and the two filled the void, taking their delicacies from their weekly dinner parties among friends to the East Village. It, the kitchen, sits nestled in the corner of the underground hip hop-filled dome, sort of like a night light in the midst of a dark city. Charming, I think, and only having been available two months, Salsa Sushi already seems to have a comfortable following.

The bar contained beers, guys and gals, good convo, some decent sounds from onstage, and above all else, Mexican style sushi. It’s definitely worth a try, and f.y.i., Victor’s an SDSU student, studying political science I think? (Plastic cup of Sierra Nevada number four, leave me alone!) So, no telling how long this might be going on. He says whichever takes off first. Now, I’m not saying he’ll be running something on ritzy Fifth Ave next month, I’m just saying go check it out before he possibly checks out.

(Salsa Sushi takes place Wednesday evenings, beginning at 8:30 p.m. until 12 a.m. at the Honey Beehive, located at 1409 C St in the East Village. $3 beers and $7 plates. Surrounded by metered parking which is free after 6 p.m. anyway.)

(La Prensa’s For the Vecinos is a weekly column that highlights homegrown San Diego indy businesses, favoring restaurants. If you can put up with a few minutes of El Vecino checking your scene, send us an invite at raymond.beltran@covad.net.)

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