Chino Latino’s Snap Crackle Pop Roll

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Chino Latino‘s Snap Crackle Pop Roll is filled with non-local fish and rolled in a  cereal product made by one of the country’s industrial food mega-producers, making it about as politically correct as a Veal McGriddle. That said, it’s damned tasty… and since sea scallops are a relatively sustainable fish choice, the roll is one of the rare sushi-esque choices that shouldn’t immediately induce guilt upon tasting.

The dish is a combination of lightly poached sea scallops with a spicy aioli, stuffed inside a reverse maki roll along with cucumbers and avocado. The twist is that Rice Krispies cover the roll’s exterior. The sweet and buttery scallops and avocado work well with the kicky aioli and the light but assertive crunch of the breakfast cereal coating. A bit of ponzu sauce completes the picture by providing a tangy finish. $15 gets you 10 big rolls — not cheap, but you actually get quite a bit of well-balanced and legitimately amusing food for the money.

Beyond the excellent taste and tolerable value, the Snap Crackle Pop Roll is an interesting thought experiment. By thrusting a low-brow mass-produced cereal into the fancy-pants world of sushi, it provokes an immediate response: “Hey, that’s not authentic! What the hell are you doing?”

Which in turn, of course, raises the counter-response: “Oh, like any sushi served in America is authentic? Particularly in the Upper Midwest, a solid thousand miles plus from either ocean?”

And the further response: “Hell, if ‘authentic’ Japanese sushi means eating endangered whales, is that really the ideal we should be shooting for?”

Well, whatever — as is typical for the creations of Chef Noah Barton, the roll is good food for thought — an added bonus for something that already tastes quite delicious.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of a book about Minnesota sandwiches and the people who eat them, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a daily video blogger for CHOW. His latest book is a guide to the food and restaurants of Minneapolis and St. Paul called the Food Lovers’ Guide to the Twin Cities. Norton has written about food for Culture: The Word on Cheese, Salon, Gastronomica, Popular Science, Saveur.com, Minnesota Monthly, and City Pages (as a weekly restaurant reviewer).

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24 Comments

  1. Interesting, I’d like to try it.

    It’s a bit of a stretch to say that eating authentic Japanese sushi means eating endangered whales.

  2. I would eat the crap out of a Veal McGriddle.

  3. Author

    Chase, I wish that were true. Like it or not, traditional sushi is the product of a very laissez-faire attitude toward ocean stewardship… an attitude that worked fine in the pre-industrial era, but not so much anymore. Alton Brown’s take on Japanese fishing practices is a bit overstated, but otherwise reasonable:

    http://www.grist.org/article/brown-is-the-new-green/

  4. I wonder how many of those Phil Roberts has to eat before he’s sated. Nice Il Gatto banner ad, BTW.

  5. $15 buys you 10 big pieces, not “rolls.” a roll is the entire roll of sushi.

  6. James, are you running out of places to eat?….Chino is kind of the bottom of the barrel imho, and rice krispies on sushi…yes, it does qualify for the chino humor . I think I need to get out in the fresh air, feeling crabby.

  7. Author

    Thanks for all the constructive and thoughtful comments, everyone. And.. what’s this coming in via email? Oh my goodness. Congratulations, folks! You’ve been featured in a book.

    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AG5D2WDVL.jpg

  8. is it a book on crabby blog comments? do we get royalties?

  9. Author

    I’m looking into the royalties thing right now.

  10. goody I’m famous, sorry about the feeding frenzy, here’s something nicer that I’m in….http://www.youtube.com/user/maestroz25?feature=mhw4

  11. the work of this blog, generally speaking, feels necessary. as in, “hey, I needed to know about that. I’m glad HT turned me on to it”. this particular piece falls well short of that standard. instead of implying that we’re trolls, you ought to be thanking us for skewering it. we’re just trying to do you a favor.

  12. Author

    Geoff, I’m sure you actually do view posting short, hostile comments that question the magazine’s overall integrity as a helpful thing to do. I’m not being sarcastic here, I honestly do think you think that it’s helpful — I know your track record, and your sincerity. From my perspective, it’s not — a thoughtful comment, or, better yet, a thoughtful email would do a lot more good. Moreover, I’m not apologizing for this story. I think the proliferation of sushi in the Upper Midwest is absolutely bizarre and fascinating, and I think the creativity on display over at Chino is worthy of comment. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

  13. What a downer. Cereal and cooked fish – a poseur for sushi. Typical Minn-eesota.

    It is difficult to get real sushi in MN (despite all the Japanese restaurants) – there’s maybe a few token items offered on the menu which are actually sushi. Most of what is offered is “disguised” sushi.

    Most (that’s most) people here can’t eat raw fish. It’s out of their league.

    Let me know when you find a real sushi place.

  14. Joe A.,

    I feel like getting “real sushi” is kind of pointless in MN. Face it, it’s just not part of the cultural landscape. The dish originated among cultures that lived by the ocean! Just accept that authenticity is a moot point here! It’s incredibly impractical to expect fresh fish sushi in the Midwest, because whatever you’re going to get just isn’t going to be as “authentically” fresh as the sushi you can get in Tokyo.

    You guys, we live in Minnesota. Accept it, and move on. Eat some sushi next time you’re on a coast, but don’t expect the same quality from restaurants here. It’s like faulting a dog for not being able to execute a proper Russian dinner service.

  15. Author

    I’m with Soleil on this one. The Upper Midwest has nothing to apologize for on many fronts — beer, meat, cheese, and in-season local produce, among many others — but there’s a steep drop off even between good California (or NYC) sushi and the local stuff, to say nothing of Japan. The reason this particular roll was interesting is that it basically concedes that point, and tastes quite nice in the process, working with a non-raw fish driven roll. It’s like, “to hell with it, I’m nontraditional, so I’m going to go right out and give traditional sushi the middle finger.”

  16. Hey, I just heard of this really cool new concept, it’s called FedEx. It’s so cool how traditional sushi restaurants in NYC and Cali are able to serve non-local fish, fresh. FYI, sushi=finger food (can be raw fish, but not necessarily).

  17. Soleil Ho03/17/2010Reply

    Hey now Heidi, I’m trying to be sensitive to carbon footprints and the Earth and seals and stuff! Even though sardines are so… delicious… :(

  18. Maybe I’m confused by what authentic or real sushi means but I disagree with the sentiment that you can’t get good sushi in Minnesota.

    While playing the part of a tourist in LA several years ago, I visited numerous sushi restaurants and had sushi every day. One of these places was Oomasa in Little Tokyo. Several guide books highly praised Oomasa for freshness and presentation. Yet, what I had there, primarily nigiri, tasted no fresher than what I have had in Minnesota. In truth, none of the nigiri sushi I’ve had in LA, San Diego, Portland, and Seattle has been better than the best I’ve had in Minnesota.

    Even in coastal areas of the US, almost all fish is flash frozen before being delivered, via jet and truck, to the restaurant. That means, with our modern transportation system, sushi served in Minnesota should taste indistinguishable from that served on the West Coast. How a restaurant handles the sushi after it arrives is a bigger determinant of flavor and freshness than our being in Minnesota.

    My suggestion for getting good nigiri sushi is to sit at the sushi bar and become friends with the sushi chef. Skip the menu, insead, ask for omakase (chef’s choice) and ask for what came in that day. If they get flustered by your request for omakase, don’t go back. If they say everything is fresh, don’t go back. Also, don’t go during happy hour or peak dinner hour. In my experience, Nami, both Origami restaurants, Sakura, and St Paul Fuji Ya have had good sushi.

    As an aside, I had the pleasure of eating sushi made from fresh-caught fish while in Homer, AK. The owner/chef had an arrangement with the local fisherman to bring him certain types of fish they had caught by accident in their nets. It was there I first had black sea bass. Unfortunately, the guy did not know how to cook rice. It was undercooked and gritty. When he was not looking I would discretely discard the rice and eat the raw fish as sashimi.

  19. Author

    Scott, it’s an admirable sentiment, but the stuff I had at Sushi Ota in San Diego, the stuff I’ve had at Jewel Bako and another restaurant whose name I can’t recall in New York City, and the stuff I had at some random strip mall place outside of San Francisco all was substantially better than the best omakase I’ve gotten at Origami here. If there’s better omakase around here that I’ve missed, let me know.

  20. I’m with Heidi on this one. While our Sushi isn’t as good as NYC, it’s certainly not terrible, and it’s not as though it takes weeks to get here. And if you’re going to compare almost any type of food in the Twin Cities you’re going to be able to find a better restaurant of the same type in New York.

    Not sushi, but don’t they fly everything into Sea Change on a very regular place?

  21. Scott why waste valuable stomach space on rice?

    I love that sushi gets everyone so riled up. Throw in Chino and all the holier than thou’s come out of the woodwork.

    I am no expert but I have had sushi in Portland, Seattle and here and I can’t say that one was blow the other away good. Maybe I am just not a big enough connoisseur.

    Hell if all your eating is tuna based nigiri or rolls (assuming their the most popular) the guys at Beverly’s do a decent job if you catch them making it fresh at lunch time.

    Of course being the cheapskate that I am I just walk over to the butcher/fish monger get a 1/4 lb slab of tuna and some soy sauce.

  22. Dave Ostlund03/18/2010Reply

    I seriously do not understand the issue and / or debate or arguing against a sushi position here. This roll was conceptualized by a company that is about selling fun, not great food. How this story got turned into The Twin Cities ability to secure fresh sushi??? Don’t get it. I think the company behind Chino and their billion other concepts would even admit that themselves. A near quote from the Grand Honcho: “Let’s face it, Salut is about as French as P.F. Chang’s is Chinese.” They sell burgers with cheese curds and five inch thick slices of bacon for a gajillion dollars. They outright brag that some of their dishes are “heart attacks on a plate.” They mock tree huggers and ’70′s sitcom stars, etc… To even put the concept of this company’s restaurant serving quality sushi into debate is, well, beyond comprehension. With that said, I will eat a snap, crackle and pop roll, a white trash burger and salmon “three ways” because I enjoy the kitch, it fills my belly and is, oddly, okay food.

  23. Not to reopen this thread, but Rice Krispies on sushi is about as authentic as a bacon chocolate bar.

    By the way Geoff, I have it on good authority that Phil Roberts dines only on the flesh of newborn babies.

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