Like any sentient being, when I first heard the phrase sushi burrito I thought: With tortillas and salsa? No. I will eat Key Lime Slime Ghostbusters Twinkies first!
But then I saw a truck parked in front of my office building, which I learned was run by Billy Tserenbat of famed and beloved Sushi Fix, and so I tried Bibuta sushi burritos, and boy howdy, they’re fantastic.
They’re actually not burritos, much, except for the size and shape of them. Picture a sushi hand roll about the size of one of those 12-ounce tall and skinny La Croix Curaté cans. The main deal sushi burrito is made with a wrapper of that pretty soy paper mamenori, sushi rice, a mix of cubed raw tuna and salmon dressed with a bit of unagi sauce, avocado slices, cilantro, spicy mayo, lettuce, and a sprinkling of tempura batter crumbs for crunch. Altogether the fish, rice, and seasonings taste fresh, lively, healthy, and filling—it’s a fantastic lunch.
There are other non-sushi burritos too—a filling of thinly-sliced beef sauteed in bulgogi sauce with onions so well-caramelized they get all melty, is paired with thin sticks of pickled carrot and cucumber, avocado, and a bit of spicy mayo. All of that blends with the rice into a sort of variation on a cheese-steak; beefy, gooey, salty, creamy—so good. There’s also a pork version, which is quite good, though not nearly as good as the fish one. Amusingly enough, that’s the one Tserenbat figured would be the breakout hit—Bibuta means beautiful pork in Japanese, and that is why the truck’s logo is a flying pig.
Sushi burritos originated in the late aughts in California at spots like Sushiritto, but the ones Bibuta makes are different—they’re bigger, creamier, more mellow. Tserenbat tells me that he came up with the idea for his version after traveling on an eating trip through both San Francisco and Los Angeles, and kept seeing and eating sushi burrito after sushi burrito. “I tried some deep fried ones—no, that is not Minnesotan,” he told me. “Most of them were too small, too little for a customer here. A Minnesota customer likes value. So we added more fish, more rice—more everything. The way I see it,” Tserenbat told me, “The sushi burrito is the perfect entry-level sushi. If you’ve never had sushi, you don’t have to know a special way to hold it, you don’t need chopsticks, you just see it all and then it’s very good. Very easy.” It’s also easy to make, says Tserenbat, who sold his original Sushi Fix truck last year after despairing of the time it took to make nigiri for the fast and running lunch crowd. But he retained one of the star menu items from the original truck, the Hawaiian poke, and it’s great at Bibuta too—fresh, glossy tuna, salmon, and avocado in a light sesame glaze. I could eat it every day. I’m not alone.
Tserenbat says Bibuta has been such a hit that he’s already been looking for a Minneapolis skyway spot to take the concept into the Minnesota winter. Only one big problem: The landlords are as sushi-burrito skeptical as I was. “I’ve been to 9, 10 places so far, and every time we go to talk to the landlords they’re like ‘sushi burrito.’ Hmm. It’s Japanese. No… It’s Mexican. No… It’s something else. Then suddenly they say no, this space is not for you.” Will Tserenbat have to drag every commercial real estate broker in downtown Minneapolis to get them to eat a couple sushi burritos before he can get a lease? Live and learn, landlords! I did and it was a delicious education.