LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11) - The ancient Japanese art of making sushi is meeting the rich history of Mexican cuisine.
"At first, people are like, 'Don't mess with my sushi," says Francisco Mendoza.
Mendoza is the owner of El Sushi Loco, a restaurant selling Mexican sushi. He says, "We're not reinventing sushi, but the ingredients are different."
They certainly are! Have you ever had carne asada in a sushi roll? Oh, you will at El Sushi Loco.
"Seriously, the stuff you find in a taco place, we have in a sushi," says Mendoza.
Some of the dishes are traditional like The Big E, a baked salmon roll. Then, there's the Agua Chiles Verdes y Rojos, The Copa Medina, with giant shrimp and scallops, the Yaki Loco made with shrimp, carne asada, chicken, bacon, chipotle, and fried rice with avocado and broccoli.
"We are not necessarily raw, we're cooked. For example, the carne asada is cooked, shrimp is cooked and we put it inside a roll. Then, we put a little cream cheese, tempura; fry it for you a little bit more and then add more stuff on top," says Mendoza.
Before Mendoza began his sushi empire, he spent 9 years in federal prison for drug trafficking at age of 24. When Mendoza got out, he says he was broke and broken, but determined to turn his life around.
On Craigslist in Tijuana, Mendoza found a food cart he could afford. Then, he hit the streets of LA selling sushi.
At first, he says customers were confused. "People used to stop by and say, 'Hey what kind of tacos you sell? I don't sell tacos. What do you sell? Sushi! On the street?!"
Now, Mendoza owns three El Sushi Loco Restaurants in Downey, La Puente and Pomona.
He says, "I live by two principles: gratefulness and humbleness." It also helps to be a really good sushi chef.