Q&A: Bryce Shepherd, Rockin' Baja
Rockin' Baja Coastal Cantina, with five Southern California restaurants, is know for its casual Baja-style seafood. But now it's tapping into the popularity of sushi with the launch of a sushi lounge, called Hot Roc Sushi, at its Old Town location in San Diego.
SeafoodSource chatted with Bryce Shepherd, Rockin' Baja's director of operations, about the new concept.
Blank: Why did Rockin' Baja introduce sushi to a casual Baja-style concept?
Shepherd: I personally eat sushi three to four times a week; it is lighter fare and healthy. I started seeing a lot of “fusion sushi” [geared toward the Hispanic population], but we are the first restaurant to totally embrace it.
What types of sushi and sashimi are you offering at the lounge?
We have 10 specialty rolls and a lot of the traditional rolls. We have some pretty fun stuff, such as Garlic Roasted Edamame, which has chipotle heat to it, and Rail Bangers, a baked mix of jalapenos, tempura, spicy crab and fuego sauce (instead of a dynamite sauce). Rolls include the Crunchy Eskimo Roll, a mix of spicy king crab, crunchy tempura bits and feugo sauce; the Tortuga Roll, with ahi tuna, avocado slices, cream cheese and sweet chile sauce; and the Mexican Yard Sale, made with salmon, mango salsa and cream cheese.
What seafood items are you purchasing for the sushi menu?
We bring in six different fresh fish a day. Depending on their quality and availability it could be a couple of different kinds of tuna, mahimahi, salmon and smoked eel. Tuna bellies are coming out of the harvest areas off the Baja coast. We have been in the seafood business long enough — for example, we have been procuring lobster for 20-plus years — so we just told our [traditional] purveyors we are looking for sushi-grade seafood. We mainly work with Anderson Seafoods [in San Diego].
Will Rockin' Baja add more sushi lounges to its restaurants?
This is something that we want to test. Seafood is not really new to us, but the preparation of the sushi element worked together with the Baja element is a work in progress. We will see how it goes.