Downtown Miami is awash in mediocre soup, sandwich, and salad spots. Hence, Richard Hales' Sakaya Kitchen (soon to become Centro Taco) and Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue are perpetually packed during midday hours.
This was also the case on a recent weekday at Burrito San, a pan-Asian place focused on handheld fare that opened on First Avenue two weeks ago.
The concept here is simple: Nine fist-size rolls can be filled with white or brown rice and an array of accoutrements. The Mt. Fuji ($11.50) offers cubes of velvety bigeye tuna with avocado, masago, cucumber pickles, scallions, and crisp wontons. The rest of the options are cooked. The Filipino breakfast ($10) packs braised pork with scrambled eggs, roasted garlic, and pickled onions inside a seaweed wrapper. There’s also a vegetarian, tofu-filled choice ($9) with avocado, carrots, and wontons, as well as a Vietnamese-inspired burrito ($9) with lemongrass chicken, green papaya salad, jalapeños, peanuts, and fish sauce.
Burrito San sits right in the fast-casual Zeitgeist and — with its slick lime-green-and-gray design — seems almost mass-produced and ripe for nationwide expansion. It’s similarly branded as a healthful, all-natural kind of joint. Co-owner Samuel Getz admits the bulk of the ingredients come from Sysco; however, he says he worked with the wholesale giant to get hold of line-caught tuna, wild Alaskan salmon, and Australian grass-fed beef.
“Consistency is everything,” Getz says, “and we tested these dishes over and over, even on focus groups.”
Here Getz, a jewelry designer and longtime retail consultant, partnered with Johnson Teh and Kazu Abe. The husband and wife are behind the popular, longstanding Japanese restaurants Yuga and Lan Pan-Asian Café. It turns out they’re also part of Japanese restaurant patriarchy that dominates Miami. Abe's parents own Su-Shin Izakaya, the longtime sushi and sake establishment in Coral Gables. Her uncle is Michio Kushi, the impeccable itamae who presides over 79th Street’s Sushi Deli. Her father’s cousin owns the late-night favorite Yakko-San in North Miami Beach.
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Such a pedigree certainly lends an air of credibility to the new place. The rolls' fillings are flavorful and appeal to a wide audience, but the rice is a bit too stiff and underseasoned compared to traditional sushi rice (though Getz insists he doesn't want Burrito San to be seen as a Japanese restaurant). Whether it can undergo a Chipotle-like expansion remains to be seen.
Burrito San is located at 119 SE First Ave., Miami; burritosan.com; 305-533-1288.