If I could sing, I would sing a song professing my love of burritos. If I could write a song, I would write a song about how deliciously awesome burritos are. But I can do neither. So I’m writing this post instead.
Like most Californians, I’m vaguely aware that the burrito is an American creation. Just like orange chicken is a beloved American dish that doubles as ethnic fare for non-chinese, burritos hold a place in my heart as the quintessential American lunch time fare. The burrito’s shape and portability factor is unmatched by anything out there. Frankly, its one of the only foods where its perfectly acceptable to spill onto your shirt and people will not question you. I mean, who hasn’t had to explain the big orange stain on your white dress shirt after lunch – “I got this stain while burrito’ing and driving. But I’m okay.”
The history of the burrito can be argued, but the wide appeal of the food cannot be. In fact, in recent years we have seen a movement in which burritos have become the icon for Mexican fusion food. Food trucks all across the US have cropped up selling tantalizing fares that combine multiple cultures together such as bulgolgi burritos, indian curry burrito and even burritos within a burrito(gasp). Anyhow, here at Foodamentals we love food challenges. Therefore, we have decided to conduct a challenge to find the best “asian fusion” burrito in the San Francisco Bay Area. The criteria is simple. The burrito has to be marketed as an “ethnic” burrito, meaning that it has to contain the flavors of another ethnic cuisine. Additionally, we will only review burritos that are available at retail stores, therefore food trucks are excluded from this challenge.
4. [Japanese] Sushi Burrito aka “Sushirrito” / “Torpedo”
25 Grand Ave.
Oakland, CA 94612
Admittedly, I have eaten a sushi burrito before at Sushirrito in San Francisco. However, for the purpose of this challenge, Torpedo in Oakland was chosen because they offer a Hot Tail burrito(also, parking is significantly easier). As someone who is a purveyor of hot tails, especially on Saturday nights, I was very much looking forward to trying out Torpedo’s version. The Hot Tail is comprised of tuna sashimi, avocado, carrots, radishes, cabbage and a spicy aioli sauce. All of which, is wrapped in rice and covered in one flat piece of seaweed. If no one told me this was a “burrito” I would have thought the chef got lazy and didn’t cut up my sushi roll.
First of all, this burrito is deceptively spicy. The burrito tastes mild once it touches your lips but it has this slow burn “feature” that slowly envelops the rest of your mouth. Not to say it wasn’t good, since the creamy aioli sauce adds a nice dimension to the entire burrito, it actually makes the burrito moist. But honestly, there was nothing “burrito” about this burrito. Frankly, I felt like I was eating a big stick of sushi with mayo thrown in for good measure. Overall, the burrito is decent, but it wouldn’t be my first option. On the plus side, it was probably the most calorie conscious of all the burritos that was reviewed. So I guess, that’s good right?
3. [Indian] Chicken Vindaloo Burrito aka “Currito”
30 E Santa Clara Street Suite 130
San Jose, CA 95113
All around the Bay Area, there’s a slow increase in the number of establishments offering so-called “ethnic” fusion food. Indian is one of them. At its core, Indian food is perfect for usage in American form foods, namely, burritos. With its rich sauces, wide variety of preparation methods and awesome vegetarian options, Indian food has all the makings of the perfect cross over food. My feeling is that, like many Asian foods, preparation was always sorely lacking and most of mainstream America is just starting to come around. Seemingly, the magic elixir to solving all of these problems is by throwing it into a tortilla shell. And… that is exactly what Curry Pundits has done. While there is also the option of Curry Up Now, a famous food truck/restaurant. But, for the purpose of this review, I have gone with Curry Pundits, since they are closer to where I currently live.
Curry Pundits differs from Curry Up Now by using a roti instead of a tortilla to wrap this monstrosity. Throwing caution to the wind, Foodamentals felt the need to work our bowels a bit and opted for the hottest sauce on the menu – the vindaloo. An additional helping of chili garlic chutney helped add to this inferno of a chicken burrito. For added familiarity, salsa and cheese were thrown into the mix. All this was created via a Chipotle style process in which you select your protein, sauces and fixing in that particular order.
This burrito definitely hadsa kick to it. Rice is a big component of this burrito and in fact, I could have used a little less of it since it actually blocked out the taste of the chutney. Overall, the chicken could have used a bit more spices, but the vindaloo definitely picked up the slack that the protein lacked. Overall, it is a solid effort and won’t break the bank, which is expected for a restaurant located near a college campus(San Jose State). Out of all of the burritos we tried, this was, by far, the largest of the bunch. So bring your appetite and a pair of sweatpants cause you are going to need both.
2. [Korean] Bulgolgi Burrito
HRD Coffee Shop
521A 3rd Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
If you haven’t been living under a rock these last few years, then you know that Korean/Mexican food is all the rage, thanks to the Kogi truck down in Los Angeles. First time I had a korean bulgolgi burrito, it was like two unicorns having sex. The taste was almost mythical and frankly, a bit frightening since I didn’t now whether I should keep eating it or looking at it. But oh man, it was glorious. They weren’t kidding when they said you don’t ever forget your first.
HRD is a privately owned coffee shop and restaurant that spans two different locations in San Francisco. The coffee shop(which Foodamentals went to) is located in the SOMA district, near the corner of 3rd and Bryant. It is a smoky, small and dingy place. But it is all made up by the fact they make some of the most unique Korean/Mexican food in all of San Francisco. The burritos are made Chipotle style. The customer chooses the type of meet(bulgolgi, spicy pork etc) and ther choice of fixings. Next time, I’m definitely coming back for a smothered burrito that is topped of with curry. Honestly, you don’t ever want to be the victim of low blood pressure.
Wow, this burrito has beaucoup flavor. So much so, that I forget if I’m eating korean food, a salad or a Mexican entree. The radishes add an audible crunch as you bite down, augmenting the flavors of the salty bulgolgi that comprises the bulk of the burrito. The generous helping of meat is nicely marinade and coated with a soy sauce base(bulgolgi sauce no doubt) that caramelizes as the meat is grilled. Kimchi, cucumber strips and rice round out the entire experience. While HRD is not as good as Kogi, it is fairly close and overall, it is a solid effort by a local favorite.
1. [Filipino] Adobo Burrito
4812 Thornton Ave
Fremont, CA 94536
Adobolicious’ storefront is tucked in a nondescript strip mall that looks like it was pulled out of the set of The Walking Dead. But hey, for good food, I’m willing to fight off the zombie apocalypse. . Despite its Asian and Spanish roots, which, theoretically should jive with the American palette, Filipino food is not commonly found outside of the Filipino community. Sure, Jollibee is making progress as a franchise, but the fact is, the foods are not as popular as Thai food or even, Korean food. Which is a shame, because the Foodamentals staff actually enjoys the island and Spanish flavors of the Phillippines.
Adobolicious aims to change that perception by offering up an adobo burrito.
Adobo burrito, where have you been all my life? If you have a car, a BART pass or a Segway(we won’t judge), get yourself to Adobolicious as soon as you can. You owe it to yourself to try this glorious marriage of pork, adobo rice and mango. The adobo rice has this wonderful smoky flavor, that when paired with the sour cream and cheese, tastes like barbeque on some Mississippi riverbank. A light sheen of oil resides on the tortilla, telling us that this burrito was fried with nothing but pure, artery clogging, love. If ever a burrito can bring world peace, this adobo burrito would be it. Hands down, this is the best burrito we had the pleasure of eating in this food challenge.