Openings and Closings

Get Customizable Sushi Burritos at Newly Opened Phat Boy Sushi in Fort Lauderdale

When one thinks of fusion food, dishes that balance the elegance of two distinct cuisines come to mind.

The sushi burrito is one such melding. And starting this week at Phat Boy Sushi in Fort Lauderdale, you can order specialty rice- and fish-stuffed nori-wrapped burrito-sized rolls — just one of the many crazy creations chef-owner Thuan Lam is preparing at his 2-week-old restaurant.

The sushi burrito was a last-minute decision to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, says Lam, but was so popular he's decided to keep it on the menu as a daily lunch special. Specific ingredients will change from day to day, and patrons can request their own customized sushi burrito at the bar.

Such culinary amalgamations are nothing new. You've probably seen ramen burger at Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca, a special they did a few years back. Sushi pizza is nothing innovative, either — the South Florida chain Sushi Jo was one of the first to put one on its menu. You can even find things like pastrami egg rolls at both Top Hat Deli in Fort Lauderdale, or Ends Meat in Hollywood.

Yet, with all this funky food fusion going on, not many places in South Florida have been eager to embrace the sushi burrito first seen at San Francisco's Sushirrito — what some consider the original sushi burrito in a sea of imitators — that has taken the best of Asian and Latin fusion to new heights. Today, the chain's hand-held sushi burritos include fillings like crispy chicken, oven-roasted pork belly, and spicy Japanese eggplant wrapped in seaweed with sushi rice.

While a few local spots here have toyed with the sushi burrito as a special from time to time, it hasn't really found a permanent home on menus — until now.

A sushi chef for the past decade, Lam says he learned his trade working with a number of local sushi joints before opening his 30-seat restaurant in early April. After taking a break from the kitchen to bartend at Gryphon and Passion nightclubs in Hollywood, the chef took a leap of faith and decided to open his own restaurant.

Located off Federal Highway just past Oakland Park Boulevard, Phat Boy Sushi is a bright and modern space. A 15-seat sushi bar provides a front row seat to the sushi chef at work. On the wall to the right is a custom mural created by Gaysha New World Sushi Bar chef-owner Taneki Tobiyashi.

"When I cook, I take a lot of inspiration from other cultures, but I will always put a Japanese twist on my food," says Lam. "I'm not a big fan of places that do sushi but also have Thai or Chinese dishes. My focus is on Japanese cuisine."

The well-composed menu encourages patrons to explore a variety of creative starters, soup, salad, and sushi. Lam says his menu is meant to be experienced tapas-style, and most plates are sized for sharing.

It opens with innovative appetizers like salty dried kawahagi (dried smelt fish jerky served with the house spicy mayo); a savory black pork sausage that literally snaps when you bite into it (from the Japanese Kurobuta black pig); and Lam's popular mushroom tobanyaki served in a traditional clay pot (a trio of mushrooms sautéed in a garlic, butter, soy, and sake marinade).

The menu continues with soups and noodles, salads, rice dishes, tempura, and stir fry. Grilled items include several larger-style sharing plates that feature short rib, whole squid, and sesame salmon or miso sea bass. Flip the menu over and an entire page is dedicated to sushi, sashimi, and specialty rolls ranging from the traditional spider roll to a surf & turf roll (tempura lobster, cucumber, and cilantro topped with seared rib-eye).

And if you think the sushi burrito is worth a visit, save room for dessert. One of Lam's most oddball menu items is a combination of mashed Japanese sweet potato and vanilla ice cream. The textures play beautifully against one another, the sweet potato lightly salted and seasoned with secret ingredients. Or try his take on banana tempura: sliced ripe banana rolled in soy paper and deep-fried until the outer layer of sushi rice turns a crispy, golden brown and served with a creamy yuzu and green tea condensed milk glaze.

"I didn't want Phat Boy to be like everyone else," says Lam. "I like to switch it up a little. Why not be different?"

Phat Boy Sushi is located at 4391 N. Federal Highway, Oakland Park. Call 954-533-4218, or visit the restaurant's Facebook page.

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.