A young Mexican Chef is putting a new spin on sushi in Guadalajara at Atarashi 33.
Ernesto originally wanted to become an architect, but after attending university for two years he left school to work in his brothers’ Japanese restaurant in Guadalajara. He went to work at the restaurant not because he didn’t love architecture, but because he realized midway through his studies that he loved cooking, food and the restaurant business more.
Ernesto comes from a restaurant family. His dad had a very good Mexican food business where his sons spent time and eventually worked for him. Thus, the love and passion for all things in gastronomy.
He is now the chef and owner of Atarashi 33, a small four-table sushi café located just across the border from Colonia Americana, an easy walk from there. The café has a long, handmade blonde- wood sushi bar, similar to those you see in traditional Japanese restaurants, which was expertly made by Ernesto’s father.
The café is decorated in a minimalist style with accents of linear senses, purity and simplicity. There is little “Mexicaness” here as the design was well thought out, just like the food. The menu has the expected: sushi rolls, sashimi, rice dishes, etc. But what is totally unexpected is the amazing flavors everywhere, creations of the chef who takes the traditional and adds twists and turns in a very innovative manner, with layers of flavorful local produce and products.
You are presented with a serrano pepper chile first sauteed in olive oil but now in a soy sauce, a prelude to Mexican-style for things spicy. Yet this wonderful sauce startles you as you sprinkle it on your California roll, the flavors melding like they were meant to be together. Some dishes look familiar, yet the freshness in taste is wonderful, like the tuna roll wrapped in sauteed plantain, which astounds in its sweet and sour taste. I wanted a second serving, so believe me, it’s that good. A huge cucumber wrap stuffed tightly with fresh tuna, fried shrimp and crabmeat and topped with avocado is astounding. Its crunchiness, along with the three fish flavors, please the palate in a most exciting way. To top it off, try the fried mochi ice cream for dessert.
Ernesto told me some Japanese customers walk-in and comment that his food is not sushi and his version of sushi is not traditional. He said that he uses his “Mexicaness” to create a new profile of sushi (though not a mix of ingredients that do not belong together) making, in the end, a version of sushi that has little Mexican in it.
Years ago, I ate at what is considered to be the best sushi restaurant in America, Nobu in New York City. I found the chef there used similar produce as Ernesto: chiles, lentils, papaya and much more, ingredients not necessarily Japanese in origin. Please understand that I am not comparing Atarashi 33 to Nobu’s greatness, but instead I am addressing the similarities in the two kitchens. Both succeed greatly, one now an older gentleman and Ernesto, who appears to be not a day over 20.
The chef/owner told me there are regular customers who walk in, sit down and ask him to “go to town,” meaning, of course, to serve them whatever he feels like making that day. Honestly, I did the same my first visit. Out of curiosity I wanted to see the chef’s skills, and I can now say confidently, when in Guadalajara stop by because you will be surprised and fulfilled with whatever choice you make. Atarashi 33 will not disappoint. On the contrary, you will want to return.
Atarashi 33 Calle Morelos 995 Colonia Americana Guadalajara. Take-Out # 333-826-8382. $$ out of $$$$$ Opens at 1:00 p.m. Closed Sundays