Hai St. Kitchen US: Rollin’ and Bowlin’

What does a newly graduated Master do with all that free time (until, of course, I have to start actually working in June?

Well, there have been a few things. I’ve been napping… a lot. There have been happy hours and puppy visits and Game of Thrones (books and show… Getting real wild over here.) But there’s one pretty cool thing that comes with all of this time: the ability to queue up with Philly’s finest foodies for a chance to fall in love at first bite courtesy of the new Hai Street Kitchen.

Lots of Options

Lots of Options

Get this: Hai St. Kitchen decided to generously offer a free entree to folks the day before their official “Grand Opening”. Super great minus one tiny little fact:

Hell hath no fury like the a Center City lunch crowd lured by the word “FREE”. 

Initial reports touted an opening time of 11:30am, running until 3pm. I ambled over around 11:45 to a line that wrapped around the block. Luckily, I had a fully charged phone and nothing but time…. And very perked up ears to overhear the gossip. Apparently, Genji, a Philly-based sushi company that rocks out the wholesale sushi scene thanks to a hookup with Whole Foods, has one Hai St Kitchen location in the UK, and this is the first venture in the US.

The concept is pretty basic, and reminiscent of Chipotle. Almost to a T…. except instead of a tortilla, all your rice and fixins are wrapped inside of some nori. Yup, basically a seaweed burrito. That’s very appealing to me…. but also, very appealing to a zillion other Philadelphians. I waited for about an hour and a half, largely due to the fact that they opened a little later than intended. Luckily, there were snacks on hand.


For about 2 hours, the corner of 18th and Chestnut/Ranstead was the free food capital of the city, with samples from Sabra (hummus and salsa) and some Snapea Crisps (WOW!! These are insanely delicious) and hydration from Boxed Water (it’s water in a box. I don’t know.) We also had plenty of time to look over the menu.

I was torn between a few options.



And after watching folks in line come back with their little cardboard tubes, and salivating for just over 90 minutes, it was my turn.



Appreciate the natural, and you can tell from the look of things that they’re fresh. Here’s a SUPER COOL ACTION SHOT of my sushi-rito being made:


If you’re wondering “are those pickled mangoes?” you have a great eye for pickled fruits. And yes, they are. Finally…. it had arrived.


Cardboard tube chock-full of goodness. But the real test comes from the taste….


Pretty solid shot considering it’s an iPhone picture…. That salmon was just on-point. But the real star was the spicy gochujang pepper sauce. I don’t know really what that means…. but I think I want it all over everything I eat from now until forever. They offer a “crunch” option which included fried garlic, fried shallots, or yucca chips. I went for fried shallots but, honestly, didn’t taste any crunch. And truly, that’s the only thing that I felt was missing. A crunch. But I loved the texture of the nori roll, the rice was full of flavor from all the other ingredients, and  pickled mangoes: damn.

I’ll be back soon. Because I love a novel ‘rito wrap.

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