Anyone who still buys into the laughable idea there's such a thing as “authentic” Mexican food should go to Emporio Sushi in El Modena, look at the menu, then run away screaming. Here are seeming monstrosities that any so-called foodie would ridicule if RA Sushi or any Huntington Beach sushi spot even dared to attempt them. Rolls stuffed with beef or mango? Chicken rolls? Banana? Floating on oceans of hot sauce? The Montana roll, which resembles a baked potato and has steak on top of it? And for chips, wonton skins with a Sriracha mayo as a dipping sauce? Such sacrilege!
But refry this, authentistas: That's exactly what they're eating right now in the clubs of Sinaloa, the Mexican coastal state notorious for being the birthplace of many narcos but respected across Mexico for making some of the finest seafood around. Mexican-style sushi became a thing during the past decade, and it's finally filtering into Orange County thanks to increased migration from Sinaloa. So this place is the ultimate locals hangout: sleek design meant to look like a club; flat-screens tuned to ESPN in English and Univisión; jukebox always blasting hard-charging sierreño and banda, with the singers offering frequent shoutouts to Sinaloa's capital, Culiacán (saludos a my homie Cheeser from ElMo—culichi power!). Families, young people and single men devour the mestizo rolls, and they're not bad at all. The best is the aguachile roll, which takes a Philadelphia roll and tops it with the state's legendary take on ceviche, resulting in savor, spice, sourness and heat. I don't understand why Emporio decorates the plate with a beet sauce, but whatever: It's delicious, and it's worth it.
Those not brave enough to try the sushi can still enjoy a visit because Emporio also has a menu devoted to mariscos. Here, you'll find all the Sinaloan specialties: awesome shrimp and marlin tacos, sea soups spiked with coconut, refreshing ceviches, shrimp or scallops prepared a dozen ways, and more of that blistering aguachile. There's even a coconut-spiked horchata, something you can't find elsewhere in la naranja. And, look, cabrones: If Mexicans can prepare amazing sushi at your favorite Japanese restaurant, they sure as hell can do it for raza, too.