Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Exploring the art of sushi, tailgate style | Taste, the Santa Fe dining scene

When you go What: Jesushi food truck. When: Monday to Wednesday 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Where: 2217 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe. More info: Call 505-204-5330 or find her on Facebook.

I admit it: In the wide, delicious world of culinary delights, I’ve never been a sushi connoisseur. When I feel like looking for them, I’m more likely to go for some predictable veggie or boiled fish rolls.

When I started listening to rave after rave about a new food truck called Jesushi, which serves some of the best and freshest sushis in town, I called an expert: my best friend.

It happened to be her birthday, so I suggested a celebratory lunch in perhaps the most unlikely scenarios – eating tailgate-style sushi near an old-school car wash off Cerrillos Road.

“I’ll give you a $ 2 bill,” she wrote to me during a discussion before lunch, “if you bite off my seaweed salad.”

As it turned out, we didn’t get the salad. But our selection of starters, rolls and nigiri turned out to be more than enough for a feast for two – and a selection of fresh, flavorful seafood that would satisfy both a sushi novice and a seasoned professional.

That is quite intentional. Chef and owner Jesus Mendoza has developed a menu and approach that focuses on freshness, accessibility and aesthetics.

Mendoza grew up in a fun-loving family and began working as a Busser at the local Japanese restaurant Osaka at the age of 15. He was immediately drawn to the sushi chefs who meticulously craft their edible works of art. They noticed his attention, and soon he was out with tables three nights a week, making sushi twice a week. He eventually turned it into a full-time job as a sushi cook and learned to become a teppanyaki cook.

After about eight years, Mendoza moved to Jo-Ji’s Sushi & Teppan Grill in Española and then back to Osaka until it closed. He worked at the Plaza Cafe Southside and Kai Sushi & Dining – but in the meantime he was attracted by the food truck he had bought and kept in his garden. When the pandemic hit, he decided it was time to get going on your own.

Jesushi opened in August with an extensive menu of classic rolls, hand rolls, nigiri, sashimi, salads and other dishes like rice balls and rellenos. He also has a specialty buns menu that is currently only available on Fridays and Saturdays – but if you catch him on a slow day he can cook you something from the bonus menu.

That was the case on our visit day, when Mendoza prepared us a Jesushi roll (US $ 14) – in addition to our dragon roll and mushroom and jalapeño rellenos – with shrimp tempura, avocado and cream cheese, garnished with roasted salmon, spring onions, spicy mayonnaise and eel sauce. Like everything we’ve tried, it was fresh, flavorful, and clearly just cooked.

Mendoza emphasized that this is not a fast food with lots of items prepared in advance – it is best to get your order or you may have to wait 15-25 minutes. The sushi is rolled and cut to order here, and Mendoza also carefully orders its seafood so it is as fresh as possible every day.

“I prefer to tell my customers that I’m sold out for the day than to cook too much fish because the quality is deteriorating,” he said. “I think that’s the key.”

My sushi connoisseur companion raved about the fresh smoothness of the yellowtail and salmon nigiri ($ 6 and $ 5 for two people). All I know is that I think back to those tender, buttery, almost sweet bites on a regular basis with the growing assurance that I am ready to return for more.

This is also because sushi beginners like me feel at home at Mendoza. The menu says what’s in each roll, but he’s also happy to ask what you’re looking for at the start.

“A lot of people think that because it’s sushi, it’s all raw,” he said. “I ask, do you like salmon? Tuna? Depending on what they tell me, I can bake it, roast it … What is a nigiri? People can ask me! That’s what I’m here for, so I can explain it to you. “

Beginner or not, every customer can appreciate the beauty of Mendoza’s meticulous, colorful food.

“It’s like art to me,” he said. “When I make sushi for my customers, I do it as if I were going to eat it. I make sure everything looks good because people look through their eyes. The way it looks, it tastes good. “

Mendoza’s sushi is a feast for the eyes, carefully shaped and elegantly plated, and it was a bit unearthly to enjoy such lovely food while climbing out of the trunk of my friend’s car.

A businesswoman carrying a snack bag back to her car gave a friendly laugh as she passed us.

“It’s her birthday dinner!” I yelled, pointing at my friend with a grin.

“Oh I love it!” she called back – and so did we.

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