RENO, NEVADA – Aureliano Raygoza held a clump of rice in his hand, then placed it down on a wooden table, on top of seaweed. Behind him, a massive screen just a few feet from a video camera provided a close-up of his hands, so everyone in the room could see exactly what he was doing.
“I call it the Cheviche Roll,” he said. “This is my creation.”
Raygoza was standing just a few inches from his fellow chef, Carlos Cazares, in a place that offered something a bit different: a two-in-one restaurant, offering guests the option of either being seated at Dos Geckos Cantina, billed as “a fiesta of Mexican flavors,” and offering a host of Mexican dishes; or, at the same time, getting seated in a section of the restaurant known as Kokopelli’s Sushi.
Located in the Circus Circus Resort in downtown Reno, it may be one of the world’s few combination Mexican/sushi restaurants. But as Raygoza and Cazares set out to prove, a chef doesn’t have to hail from Japan to know how to make an appealing plate of that highly popular Japanese food consisting of cooked vinegared rice (shari) combined with other ingredients (neta), most often raw fish.
In fact, Cazares and Raygoza have a combined 41 years of experience preparing meals, and as chefs in not only a popular tourist town but also a popular hotel and casino, they acknowledged that sushi may stand out from other meals that can be prepared, since it has a certain degree of showmanship about it.
Watching a chef prepare a sushi dish, they acknowledged, can be as much fun as sampling the results. With that in mind, the two chefs offered a presentation on Friday called “Sushi – the Art, the Enjoyment … and the Secrets.”
As the chefs noted, a menu at a sushi restaurant like Kokopelli’s may offer guests a list of unique-sounding names – Moyako Roll, Royal Flush, Mountain Roll, Caterpiller, and Ring Roll – that sound exotic and a bit mysterious. It’s not quite the same as reading a menu that offers a choice between a cheeseburger or baconburger.
The sushi restaurant may even list on the menu all the ingredients, such as the fact that a Godzilla Roll is made up of cooked yellowtail and green onion in a deep fried roll. But what really goes into making a plate of sushi?
As Raygoza noted, it constitutes a lot more than people think.
As he prepared to create an order of the Cheviche Roll, Raygoza placed the rice on the seaweed and then started to slice … a lemon.
“I put lemon on it,” he said, but not by squirting the juice on top. Instead, he placed thin slices of lemon onto his creation.
That wasn’t the end of it, either.
“Jalapeno, and a little cucumber,” he said, as he then picked up a fresh avocado.
“Some avocado,” he said, using a long, sharp blade to cut open the shell and then edge off thin slices of avocado to place on the seaweed.
Next was Yellowtail.
“I slice the skin light,” he said. “Now I put the fish on top. Gonna tie the fish together, and set on a plate.”
Tiny slices of red onion come next, pieces that have been well marinated, he added.
He rolled it together, and then lifted the plate for all to see.
“And that’s it – Cheviche Roll,” he said. “This roll will be sour, and a little spicy. That is one of the most popular we have.”
As the screen behind him captured every intricate detail of the preparation of the meal, a large crowd sat in front of the two chefs, seemingly fascinated by every moment of the show.
It was a reminder that in a popular tourist spot, famous singers, comedians and even the Chippendales dancers who were scheduled for a July 27 appearance at the neighboring hotel, the Silver Legacy, are not the one ones who know how to entertain.
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