When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Fusion Burrito Location: 546 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert Open: About a month Eats: Mexican fusion Price: Less than $10
Mexican fusion isn't new, per se, but it seems to be taking on a new life here in the Valley. There's Mexican sushi, the soon-to-open Sumo Maya restaurant in Scottsdale, and Fusion Burrito in Gilbert. This new restaurant -- courtesy of Johnston and Wales graduate Chip Rooney -- specializes in burritos and quesadillas with flavors inspired by places all over the world.
We'll admit that meatballs in a burrito may not sound appetizing, but Fusion Burrito is somehow making it work.
The menu includes creations that range from "Okay, that doesn't sound too bad" to "Really? That can't be good." Consider the Gilbert burrito, which features housemade chicken salad with dried cranberries, almonds, celery, and greens. It's more wrap than burrito, but we can get behind the idea.
Then there's the Boise, a burrito that includes roasted chicken or pork, mashed potatoes, brown gravy, and diced green onion. It sounds more like something a stoner college student comes up with than gourmet food.
No matter which route you take on your burrito adventure, it would be smart to start your Fusion Burrito meal with an order of the housemade onion dip. It's strange that the order doesn't come with any chips, but you can buy a bag separately for $1.29. The salty kettle chips are perfect with addictingly good dip that's elevated with pieces of fresh green onions. The small size (79 cents) is more than enough as a starter for two.
On the other hand, you can skip the tater tots, which are okay but not a memorable part of the meal. Even the Nacho Tots ($2.99) don't taste as good as they sounded, thanks to subpar nacho cheese and slices of canned jalapeño.
For entrées, we tried the off-menu New Yorker ($7.29), which features meatballs, a five-cheese blend, and marinara. It sounds weirder than it tastes, for sure, and in our opinion, it actually tastes pretty good. The burrito is wrapped in a better than average tortilla (not made in-house, according to our server) and features a slightly spicy and very flavorful marinara. The meatballs were plentiful and moist, though maybe not the best you've had in town.
In short, it's a satisfying meal and a pretty clean way to enjoy meatballs on the go -- should you feel the need to do so.
The Seoul burrito ($6.99) was less successful, though it may have offered a more interesting combination of flavors. Packed with roasted pork, steamed rice, shredded cabbage, carrot, radish, cilantro, and mint, this dish made for a surprisingly fresh tasting meal that could probably have used a little less of the sweet Korean BBQ sauce. The roasted pork, though less flavorful than we would have liked, was very moist and tasted fine considering the medley of other ingredients at work.
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Our biggest problem was with the steamed rice, which tasted like it was of the Uncle Ben's variety. Not only was it too dry for the burrito, it was also the wrong style of rice to be used in an Asian-style dish. We would have enjoy the burrito much more without it.
Finally, we tried an order of the NOLA, or New Orleans-style beignets ($2.79). If you've been to Cafe du Monde, don't get too excited. These little doughnuts are nowhere near that good, though they are light and fluffy and remarkably less greasy then you would expect. It's a little strange that your order comes with powdered sugar on the side rather than atop the deep fried desserts, but since they're served in a paper bag, it's easy enough to dump the sugar in there and shake it around.
Fusion fare tends to be on shaky ground, particularly in the fast-casual sector. But we have to admit that Fusion Burrito offers a solid meal, especially at such an affordable price. The fact that there's a drive-thru window gives the operation all the more appeal. After all, it's not like you can eat a meatball sub while you cruise around town.