Perhaps while thumbing through a magazine or scrolling through your social media feed, you have seen the phrase “sushi burrito” and wondered, mildly alarmed, about this latest food trend. Bushi, a small corner restaurant in downtown Roanoke, is here with an answer: A sushi burrito is the latest delicious, filling, fast and fresh meal in downtown.
The restaurant is small, with only a cooler of bottled drinks, and a bar installed along the wall with maybe half a dozen stools for seating. The decor and vibe is not as much “upmarket sushi bar” as “college town burrito dive,” and, accordingly, a fair proportion of its business appears to be takeout.
The menu is divided into two sections: You can choose from one of about half a dozen sushi burrito combinations ($8.95-$9.95), or you can choose a poke bowl, a bowl of rice topped with either two or four scoops of protein ($8.25/$9.75), any of about two dozen toppings, and finally drizzled with your choices from their various sauces, which introduce salty, sweet and spicy flavors.
Bushi works off a Subway or Chipotle model: After making your choices, you watch them make your meal from the many fresh toppings, proteins and sauces arrayed in front of you. There’s even a choice in the rice: white, brown and “bushi,” which is infused with green tea, although when we tried it, whatever nuance of flavor imparted by the tea was lost in all the other strong flavors.
I must here first confess my skepticism — of the concept, of the execution, of the fish. But I was wrong. As opposed to a full sushi bar, Bushi serves only Atlantic tuna, salmon, braised eel, spicy tuna, tempura shrimp, crab salad and tofu. The fish I tried was fresh and delicious. The small ice-cream-sized scoops of tuna or salmon are marinated to order, in what appeared to be a soy-based marinade.
The toppings, which include a wide selection of vegetables, fruit, pickled carrots and ginger, as well as prepared salads like seaweed and crab, were also fresh and allowed for a lot of customizing and creativity.
We tried the Bushi special burrito (with salmon and tuna, topped with bushi sauce and spicy mayo) and the tempered crab burrito (with tempura shrimp and crab salad with unagi sauce and spicy mayo). Both burritos also included cilantro, butter lettuce, cucumbers, masago, avocado and crispy onion. Essentially, these looked like giant California rolls — they are burrito-sized rolls of rice, wrapped in nori (seaweed) and then slightly overstuffed with the filling to make a hearty meal.
The poke bowls let each diner’s own creativity in combining flavors and textures shine, although when we order again, I will ask for a light hand with the sauces, which can overpower the other ingredients.
I am told by people who love the Hawaiian specialty that this is not real poke. On the islands, poke is usually a small bowl of raw fish, flavored with spices — not a large bowl combining fish with rice and toppings. As such, Bushi’s poke bowls and sushi burritos are really part of the Asian fusion tradition — the American penchant for taking Asian culinary traditions and reinterpreting them for U.S. palates, like California and Philadelphia rolls.
Authenticity debates aside, Bushi’s burritos and poke bowls are delicious, fresh, quick and both reasonably healthy and reasonably priced options for downtown dining.