Restaurant Review

Sushi burritos: culinary genius or food mashup fail?

Taste testing the latest fusion food craze at Joburg's Sushi Burrito & Co

02 August 2017 - 12:31

''Oh no mum, what have they done?"

It comes as a sort of whimper from my eldest son as he peruses the menu.

It is indeed pretty disturbing stuff: traditional and invented sushi fillings abutting 1970s buffet salad stuff (iceberg, mayo, shredded beetroot), all trapped in a taco shell, and complicated by ubiquitous togarashi spice. Not for the faint-hearted.

We're at Sushi Burrito & Co in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. Yes, I know what you're thinking and of course you're absolutely right: people deserve what they get when opting to eat at a place that puts sushi and burrito in the name.

I don't know what came over us - I reckon it was one of those finger-in-the-fan things, coming from the same part of the brain that tells you to download the Sharknado movie, or make NikNaks into a milkshake.

Sushi Burrito & Co is interesting because - as part of a worldwide sushi-burrito trend - it's proof once again that novelty factor and ''theme" are currently the biggest deciding factors in eating out. The actual food comes further down the list.

To be fair, if you can weather the super-clean graphic décor (it's like Mondrian after he decided his work was too soft-edged and baroque) and the trash-rock-pop soundtrack, there are some winner dishes on the menu.

They're just not the sushi-burritos.

The tempura calamari is great - crispy and oil-free, and accompanied by a proper dashi stock; the bao filled with breaded chicken is delicious; the fried dessert bao with crème fraiche is good stuff, similar to the fried bread and condensed milk dessert that nestled in Commissioner Street's now defunct Yung Chen noodle den, though I could have done without the caramelised bacon in this version.

It's precisely in the bacon-meets-dessert arena where there's too much seat-of-the-pants invention going on.

Jamming stuff together has rarely worked out well and, if you want to take two unrelated cuisines and make them share a bunk-bed, you really have to know what you're doing.

It helps, of course, if you love and respect the ''original" dishes, but even that may not be enough. If you really loved and respected them you'd just leave them alone to live their short lives with dignity, I think.

Food evolves, yes. Notions of authenticity are always complicated, yes. But that doesn't mean chaos should reign.

Anyway, the service is great, the food arrives on time and the prices are fair. But give me revolting service, long waits and higher prices any time, if I can get a great meal.

• This article was originally published in The Times