A mystery man’s contribution to the South Bay culinary scene resides within four red walls of a restaurant in east San Jose. El Culichi VIP opened its doors last week with live music and a crowd eager to try a fusion of Sinaloa, Mexico-style sushi and seafood. The unexpected flavor combinations, family-friendly environment and unusual anonymity of the restaurant’s owner makes for a potential up-and-comer.

“I like to stay low-key,” says El Culichi VIP’s owner, Jorge, who refused to provide his full name. “I want it to be all about the food.”

Though there are numerous seafood restaurants in Silicon Valley, El Culichi VIP is probably the only one that serves ceviche, carne asada tacos and Sinaloa-style sushi rolls. The rolls can consist of a combination of shrimp, crab, beef, bacon or chicken topped with cheese or avocado. The idea of adding additional ingredients to the Japanese original appeared due to the weather conditions in Mexico.

“What happened was that in Sinaloa, Japanese-style Sushi was introduced and quickly became a craze,” Jorge says. “It’s very hot over there, so a lot of the time seafood would go bad, and so they said, ‘What are we going to do? Cook everything.’”

The house specialty is the Guamuchilito ($13.50), a fried sushi roll that features crab, cream cheese and avocado on the inside and is topped with tampico paste and avocado. The most expensive dish, Parrillada de Mariscos, is listed at $45.99 but serves four people. The platter includes shrimp, octopus and abalone in red salsa on a bed of Caribbean rice with prawns and fish filet.

Though the restaurant has a family friendly vibe, it also has a lively environment that should do well with the happy hour and late-night crowd. Perdidos de Sinaloa performed on the restaurant’s opening day, and since then Alto Rango and Banda La Unica have played live music for shows running Friday through Monday.

Though the brand may be well known, El Culichi VIP is not a part of a chain, according to its owner. “This is Culichi VIP, the others are Culichi Town—they are two different things,” Jorge says. “We carry the same gastronomy, since we both originate from Sinaloa, we have the same concept, but they are very strong in LA, we want to be strong here in the Bay Area. We are the only ones in San Jose and the first of many, in God’s favor.”

El Culichi VIP
175 S. Capitol Ave, San Jose.