At first glance, Sushinista, on Milvia Street, might seem familiar to many passersby. A place offering sushi burritos isn’t too much of a surprise. In San Francisco, there’s the original Sushirrito, and there’s even Sushi Secrets in Downtown Berkeley. In the case of Sushinista, imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery. A sushi burrito, as the name implies, is a burrito filled with all the sushi fixings such as white rice and protein. Instead of a classic tortilla, nori is wrapped around the savory fillings to keep it intact.
But Sushinista differentiates itself because it operates like a Chipotle for Japanese fusion food. Similar to how Pieology is the Chipotle for pizza and Toss is the Chipotle for noodles, Sushinista allows the customer to choose their own way of having their sushi. They’ll be able to make even the pickiest of eaters happy with what’s on the menu.
On this particular Saturday afternoon, I walked into Sushinista not knowing exactly what to expect, but it was easy to look up at the chalkboard and find whatever floated my boat. I opted for the sliced beef with pickled ginger and sukiyaki butter sauce for the main option, which I ordered sushi burrito style, rather than burrito bowl style. Then, I YOLOed it and got bacon bits and yam tempura in it because my arteries hadn’t had enough clogging yet. Surprisingly, none of their offerings included raw fish, but I still thought that the cooked main options all sounded delicious. After settling down in a corner seat, I found that Sushinista’s cozy interior with its brick wall aesthetic was the perfect solace from the freezing rain.
I didn’t have to wait long. Sushinista had extremely fast service. Within 10 minutes, I got my complete combo meal of my beef sushi burrito, corn miso soup and zucchini fries. Starving after a long and torturous midterm review session, I took a swig of the soup and it instantly warmed my tummy. There were sweet kernels of corn at the bottom of my styrofoam bowl, which were an excellent accent to the umami flavor of the miso soup. Then, I moved on to the massive sushi burrito. After taking a couple of bites, I was able to fully appreciate the variety of its flavors and textures. The vegetable slaw was fresh and crisp, and the red radish provided such a great contrast to the yam tempura. Ron Swanson would be proud of the generous amount of bacon bits that accompanied the beef. Overall, it was a well-balanced meal neatly wrapped in a seaweed blanket.
Sushinista’s walls, which used to house the infamous Sumo Grub, had a new air about them. For example, the matcha salt that accompanied my zucchini fries was an amazing testament to the sense of the restaurant’s innovation with their comfort food. The concept of fresh ingredients in the style of “bento boxes made by Japanese moms,” according to the restaurant’s chalkboard, made me feel at home. I felt like a kid watching “The Magic School Bus” and eating a lunch my mom would pack for me.
Sushinista is the college student’s dream meal: convenient, delicious and filling. In comparison to going to other sushi burrito places, you definitely get a bang for your buck with the combo meals, which cost $12.50. Whether you have to fight yourself through a swarm of Berkeley High students or walk 15 minutes in the rain, you’ll find that a food field trip to Sushinista would make Ms. Frizzle jealous that you didn’t invite her along.