I’m a big fan of Uma Temakeria, so I was pretty excited when I found out about Hai Street Kitchen & Co. Like Uma Temakeria, Hai Street specializes in sushi burritos…but bigger ones, with a wider range of ingredients, it seemed—and so I stood no chance. Onto my list it went.
Their only New York City location is at Urbanspace Vanderbilt, which didn’t sound ideal to me—but I figured they’d be worth looking into, at the very least. So what if Urbanspace is full of restaurants that are trendier than they are tasty? That’s a generalization; surely, there are some exceptions, and maybe Hai Street was one.
Hai Street never responded to the message I submitted via their contact form, and their Urbanspace location doesn’t have its own phone number, so I called one of their Philadelphia storefronts. The woman I spoke with assured me that nothing on Hai Street’s menu contains any nuts whatsoever, and that the same should be true of their other locations, too. I would’ve preferred to have been able to speak to an employee who was actually on-site at their Urbanspace stand, but I wasn’t all that worried—Japanese (and Japanese-inspired) food is usually pretty low-risk, so I decided to go ahead and give it a try.
Anyway, from what I could tell, Hai Street looked good. Their Yelp page is filled with photos of big-ass sushi burritos packed with generous portions of fish, and their online menu lists a bunch of appetizing ingredient options, so I figured I was in for a treat. If I’d been paying any attention at all, though, I would’ve realized that the Hai Street’s Urbanspace location doesn’t allow for customization—that is, they don’t offer the same build-your-own deal that’s advertised on the chain’s website and available at some of their other locations.
I figured it out pretty quickly when I got there, though. The menu was simple: five speciality burritos, some sides, some drinks, and some rolls. I was a little disappointed—I’d already gotten my heart set on a combination of ingredients—but I got over it. After a few minutes’ deliberation, I ended up with the Slammin’ Salmon (a burrito made with salmon, gochujang, romaine, cucumber, pickled jicama, red cabbage, and tempura crunch) with avocado salsa and without the cucumber, jicama, or cabbage. (What can I say? I wasn’t ready to let go of my ideal. The Slammin’ Salmon wasn’t it, but at least there was no cabbage involved.)
Even without three of its seven advertised components, my burrito was intensely flavorful—though the only reason for that was the homemade gochujang (which tasted much more like sesame sauce than gochujang, actually). As a whole, the burrito wasn’t all I’d dreamed of, but it certainly wasn’t bad, either. The romaine was fresh and crisp, and the rice was tolerable, which helped. The tempura crunch sucked (but I’ve never once enjoyed tempura crunch), the salmon was bland, and the avocado salsa would have been more appropriate on a Mexican taco than a Japanese-inspired dish of any sort—but nothing in my burrito was particularly offensive, so…I did enjoy it. For the most part.
Was I underwhelmed? Yes. Slightly annoyed that I’d just spent $15 for something so mediocre? Um, yes. Still bitter about the fact that I wasn’t able to add the pickled onions and fried shallots I’d seen online? Yes. But you know what? I’d probably eat at Hai Street again, given the right set of cravings—though probably only if I happened to be passing by. My allegiance still lies with Uma Temakeria, but I suppose there’s room for both restaurants in my life.
Find Hai Street Kitchen & Co. at Urbanspace Vanderbilt, which is located at 230 Park Avenue, between 45th and 46th Streets.