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Starters: Build-your-own sushi burritos, bowls at Taichi Bubble Tea

If you’re a fan of sushi but have found yourself wishing your go-to order was a little, well, heftier, you’re in luck.

Taichi Bubble Tea, the newest tenant of Sheridan Plaza in the Town of Tonawanda, is supersizing sushi for the Western New York masses in the form of girth-blessed, handheld burritos.

As you may have guessed, the playful name comes from their semblance to Mexican burritos. Both feature rice, a protein, and vegetables enswathed tightly by an edible wrapper. And both are torpedo shaped and cut in half width-wise.

But the similarities mostly end there. Taichi’s burritos eat more like large maki rolls than anything else. For starters, they are rolled in nori, not flour tortillas, and the possible flavor combinations lean chiefly (but not entirely) Japanese.

The ordering process, which stresses customization, at Taichi Bubble Tea. Click for larger image. (Caitlin Hartney/Special to The News)

At this build-your-own, fast-casual spot, customers choose one to three proteins ($8.99-11.99) from nine possible options, including unseasoned raw tuna and salmon; spicy raw tuna and salmon; crab meat; shrimp; bacon, tofu, and chicken.

From there, you can customize your burrito with white or brown rice and dozens of add-ins. The options are divided into categories that include “mix-ins” like jalapeno and cream cheese; “flavors” like spicy mayo and ponzu sauce; “toppings” like mango and ginger; and items that add “crunch” like crisp teriyaki seaweed and fried garlic.

And if burritos just aren’t your thing, Taichi offers the same treatment for rice bowls and salads.

The sheer number of choices might be overwhelming if you are indecisive or in a hurry. There are no curated burritos, bowls, or salads on the menu for quick orders or inspiration.

Fortunately, the staff seems more than happy to offer guidance.

On a recent trip, I took the advice of the man working the register and was pleased with the spicy tuna burrito with spinach, pickled radish, avocado, masago (fish eggs), and eel sauce that resulted from our collaboration.

On the flip side, the freedom of choice can lead to error. In designing my salad, I acted independently, and the results were less successful.

The combination of salmon, avocado, cherry tomatoes, seaweed, tamago (eggs cooked omelette style, folded, and cubed), and ponzu I settled on proved wet and inharmonious. It was a good reminder to lean on the expertise of others when it’s available.

taichi salad

The build-your-own salad from Taichi can be a brilliant decision or a mistake. Choose the combinations wisely. (Caitlin Hartney/Special to The News)

Taichi also offers a robust menu of customizable hot and cold milk teas, fruit teas, and smoothies ($3.50-4.75), most of which come with the chewy, marble-sized tapioca pearls characteristic of “bubble” beverages.

In addition to choosing your flavor (or flavor blend, if you want to get daring), you have the option to select your preferred milk, ice level or temperature, sugar level, and toppings ($.50 additional).

sesame bubble tea

The Taichi Panda, a black sesame bubble tea. (Caitlin Hartney/Special to The News)

Possible flourishes include red bean, lychee boba, and passionfruit jelly, among others.

Of the teas I tried, Taichi Panda, a black sesame flavor, prepared with less sugar, was my favorite. Though next time, no added sugar might be the way to go.


Mochi from Taichi Bubble Tea in Tonawanda. (Caitlin Hartney/Special to The News)

Comparatively, Taichi’s dessert menu is a straightforward affair. As of last week, options were limited to green tea and strawberry mochi ($1.50), and prepackaged matcha cake ($2.50). Happy for the reprieve from customization, I ordered one of each.

INFO: Buffalo Taichi Bubble Tea, 2309 Eggert Road, Tonawanda. Store hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Sushi bar hours: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

*Read another Starters post:

Starters: Pain au chocolat, clams with bacon and toast at Rowhouse


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