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Local restaurant creates sushi 'king cake'

Customer describes Chiba Restaurant chef's creative creation as "Carnival in your mouth"

NEW ORLEANS — There are hundreds of varieties of king cake out there, with every kind of filling and topping you can imagine. But what about a sushi king cake?

At Chiba restaurant (8312 Oak St.), the sushi "king cake" is getting rave reviews from customers. It certainly doesn't fit the strict definition of king cake: no dough, icing or sugar. But it's New Orleans at Carnival time, so fitting into strict definitions isn't really the name of the game.

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"When you think king cake, you think a dessert, you think something sweet. You don't think something savory, but you think beautiful and delicious and so we're tying all that together in sushi form," said restaurant general manager Eric Eckert.

This is the second Carnival season that Chiba has offered its sushi "king cake." It's the creation of chef Guillermo Cruz. The El Salvador native has been in New Orleans for 11 years and saw the power of the king cake craze, even though his restaurant isn't a place you'd typically expect to find one.

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"You have sushi rice that is covering spicy tuna or spicy crab on top," Eckert said. "We have salmon, avocado, shrimp, yellowtail, tuna. And if you don't like that or want something different we're happy to fine tune it to your specifications."

The "cakes" are available in large and small sizes but can be custom made for special parties. They cost between $55 and $75.

"We bring them out here and people lose their minds. Everyone's seen plays on the traditional king cakes, but people say 'I've never in my life, anywhere on the planet, seen a sushi king cake,'" Eckert said.

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Chiba also playfully claims its is the only king cake you can safely eat all year round, and not just before Lent.

"If you're the guy who gets the last baby at Mardi Gras and you're going to wait until next year, you don't have to do that no more. This year on Ash Wednesday you come up to Chiba and get one of these," said restaurant customer Paul Bel.

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"This is Carnival in your mouth - not just a party, it's all Carnival," he said.

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