New Phoenix food truck Salaryman serves Asian-Italian fusion | Phoenix New Times

This new food trailer serves Asian-Italian fusion. Meet Salaryman

Trading kitchen burnout for chicken katsu buns, two Phoenix hospitality pros have launched a new food trailer.
Co-owners Anthony Ruiz and Brendan Lee pose for a photo outside of their new fusion food trailer, Salaryman.
Co-owners Anthony Ruiz and Brendan Lee pose for a photo outside of their new fusion food trailer, Salaryman. Lauren Topor/Good Karma Photo
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In Japanese culture, there’s a term that characterizes the overworked, and oftentimes substance-dependent, white-collar worker: the salaryman.

Similar to the high expectations held inside the bureaucracy of big business, the thin margins and fast-paced environments of the restaurant industry demands much of the same; working long hours, being a loyal employee and prioritizing your shift over everything else.

Unsurprisingly, the toxic work-over-everything attitude can lead to mental health struggles and burnout. For hospitality pros Brendan Lee and Anthony Ruiz, enough was enough.

“We felt like that in kitchens working for other people,” Lee says.

So, they borrowed the label. Enter Salaryman, the duo’s fusion food trailer.

The trailer, which made its debut in April, was a long time coming for the pair. The two men first met when they were both working at the same Phoenix restaurant seven years ago.

“It was something we would talk about when we would work the line together,” Lee says of the food trailer concept.

Lee and Ruiz made it official in July 2023 when they obtained an LLC for Salaryman and their catering company, Ragazzo.

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The Japanese rice dumplings at Salaryman may look like arancini but they taste like curry.
Lauren Topor/Good Karma Photo

A fusion of flavors

The menu at Salaryman draws on ingredients and flavors of Asian and Italian cuisines and features a unique selection of fusion-style dumplings, steamed buns and pastas.

“We will take a dish that is Japanese, Schezuan, Thai or Italian and fold something else into it,” Lee says.

Take the Japanese curry rice dumplings, for example. Made with tomato, basil, eggplant and pecorino, the trio of crispy rice balls have the look of arancini, but all the flavors of a hearty curry.

There’s also the tender porchetta steamed buns made up of pillowy bao with preserved lemon tonnato, an Italian condiment that tastes great on just about everything, and arugula greens.

“The two types of cuisine really mesh well,” Ruiz says.

And for fans of spice, the chicken katsu steamed buns, sauced up with Calabrian Sriracha and Maggi aioli, will undoubtedly set your taste buds ablaze.

Three handmade pasta dishes round out the menu.

“We love making pasta,” Lee remarks.

The Shaanxi spaghetti with cumin-seasoned lamb, scallion and pecorino is one of Lee’s favorite dishes. Salaryman’s take on the classic cacio e pepe includes pickled green and Sichuan peppers. And the chilled sesame miso noodles, accented with radicchio, cucumber and stone fruit, is a cool dish for a hot Phoenix day.

From the perspectives of Lee and Ruiz, Salaryman rebukes the monotonous and mind-numbing way things are done in many restaurant kitchens. There are no back of house hierarchies here.

“We don’t want to get bored with the food that we make,” Lee notes. “We have full creative control.”

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Salaryman features a trio of handmade pasta dishes on its menu. The Shaanxi spaghetti with cumin, lamb, scallion and pecorino is Lee's favorite.
Lauren Topor/Good Karma Photo

Trailer in transit

Ruiz is looking at this summer as an opportunity to “work out the kinks” before the busy winter season. But judging by the duo's pop-up calendar, they will be plenty busy over the next few months.

The schedule includes stints at Simple Machine Brewing Co. on June 27 and the south Scottsdale location of Trevor’s Liquor on June 30.

In July, the fusion food trailer will make stops at Roses by the Stairs Brewing on Friday nights. Plus, Salaryman will roll into Tempe on July 24 to serve the signature steamed buns, pasta and dumplings to the crowds that gather at the Shop Beer Co.

“There is no typical day for us,” Lee says. “We get to change the scenery all the time with the trailer, we’re not stuck in one place.”

For now, you can sample Salaryman’s fare at Wren House Brewing Co., where every Saturday afternoon, you can wash down your spicy katsu buns with a pint of Valley Beer, Wren’s award-winning American lager.

Salaryman at Wren House Brewing Co.

2125 N. 24th St
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