Category Archives: Reviews

A Week With the Wolves

Skolas doesn't play very nice.

Skolas doesn’t play very nice.

So it’s been one week since Destiny‘s newest expansion “The House of Wolves” hit the galaxy, and I have to say that it’s a big step in the right direction. We were given a set of story missions that told an actual story (and a pretty decent one, at that), we were given two new gaming modes that offer new and engaging ways to snatch up the latest loot, and, overall, we were given a glimpse at Destiny‘s true destiny.

The Story

I don’t think I’m alone in my criticism of Destiny‘s patchwork of a story. At launch, we didn’t have much reason to zip around the galaxy slaughtering hostile aliens. When “The Dark Below” came out, the story involving the detached Eris Morn and her unsuccessful encounter with Crota had its own set of problems (sure, I’ll destroy this crystal that houses Crota’s soul. That should do the trick. Whaaaa? He got out? And now we have to kill his body too? Drag.)

The story behind “The House of Wolves” involves a fanatical Fallen leader named Skolas who is on an idealistic quest to unite the individual Fallen houses under his banner. I think my favorite thing about this story is that it’s not focused on the Traveler or Guardians–it’s just a simple case of stopping a tyrant before he gets too powerful. The story only gets more interesting as you delve into the history behind the House of Wolves. According to the Destiny Grimoire, The Queen of the Reef led an assault on the House of Wolves, killed their kell, and took control of their house. As the story isn’t extremely fleshed out, it’s easy to see Skolas’s uprising as a kind of redemption story. In the scheme of Destiny‘s rogues gallery, the Fallen have always seemed like a race of scattered rejects who have turned to piracy and guerilla tactics to survive. Skolas’s attempt to unite the Fallen houses after his own house has been enslaved by the Queen could be seen as the actions of a zealot with a god complex, but they could also be seen as the actions of a revolutionary hero.

Petra Venj & Variks the Loyal

         Petra Venj & Variks the Loyal

The story mode also introduces a bunch of new characters and vendors through opening up the Reef to Guardians. The two most prominent characters, Petra Venj and Variks the Loyal, inject a refreshing dose of personality into the story missions. Venj’s enthusiasm about being back on the battlefield is contagious, and Variks is an enigma all to himself. He’s endearing because of his weird, Fallen mannerisms, but at the end of the day, he’s turned on his own kind to help those who would see them kept under a boot. Plus, I harbor animosity towards him for his challenges in….

The Prison of Elders

There was a nice buildup to this terrible place during the Winter’s Run strike on Venus–it’s where that damned Aksor, Archon Priest was held captive. In “House of Wolves,” players team up to face increasingly difficult waves of enemies for fortune and glory. It kind of reminds me of the multiplayer in Mass Effect 3. As the enemies get tougher, Variks also throws some objectives like disarming mines or eliminating priority targets. While it isn’t quite as fun as the ME3 stuff, it’s still a nice addition to the quest for shiny loot that makes Destiny so addictive. I also like how the challenges in Prison of Elders change every week–that damn Cabal encounter on level 32 was a bi-itch.

Other Stuff

“The House of Wolves” also fixes a problem that many people have had with the weekly strikes. From now on, the Nightfall and Weekly Strikes are different! No more do we have to play the same strike six times every week! It’s amazing how much that little change makes me more psyched to tackle them weeklies.

I haven’t played through any of the Trials of Osiris–I’m relatively new to Crucible, so the intense, 3v3 combat in Trials scares the hell out of me right now. As soon as I get my nerve, I’m going to hit this pretty hard.

Verdict

I remember being upset that there wasn’t going to be a new raid included with “House of Wolves,” but it more than makes up for it by expanding the sheer amount of stuff to go and do in Destiny. I find myself more interested in the Queen’s bounties, and feel like the world of Destiny has expanded quite a bit.

My one big gripe is the rarity of Etheric Light, a new resource required to level up previous armor and weapons. Example! Last night, I knocked out all three Nightfall strikes hoping for at least one drop. Instead, I got two Ice Breakers (first world problems). I’m going to have to prioritize the level 34 Prison of Elders–I hear you’re guaranteed one every week from there.

Anywho, “House of Wolves” appears to have fixed a lot of things that were causing Destiny to sour for myself and many others. It’s hopefully a precursor to what the game can become, and it’s nice to see that Bungie seems to be listening to the feedback of its fans.

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PSN Roundup: Tower of Guns & Never Alone

Despite the fact that I’ve lived in a state that claims it has the greatest snow on Earth, I’ve never liked the winter season. I have this theory that my distaste of being cold/wet and driving through early-morning snowstorms have coupled with my crippling fear of Wampas has resulted in a general hatred of what I call the “season of the dead.”

Guys, come on. We really need the moisture.

The result of not having an arctic fox for a companion. And madness.

But now spring is here, bitches (EDITOR’S NOTE: Spring was here when I originally wrote this, but then winter showed up again like a booger that won’t slide off of your finger no matter how hard you flick it at the wall)! And with the month of April comes two free games via PlayStation Network (if you have a PlayStation Plus subscription, that is–but why wouldn’t you? Free games!) This month, I’ve been trying to shimmy up the Tower of Guns and navigate the Alaskan wilderness with Never Alone.

tower_of_gunsTower of Guns by Terrible Posture Games
Grade: C

It’s a fairly straightforward concept: player outfits him/herself with a unique weapon in order to ascend a tower. Of guns. It’s a little odd playing a first-person shooter in which I’m not trying to rack up headshots–instead, I’m trying to navigate through walls of autonomous cannons, kamikaze robots, and environmental pitfalls. While the lack of living enemies is disorienting, I grew to appreciate the fact that the game’s conflict revolves around surviving traps and a hostile environment.

From a gameplay perspective, Tower of Guns is just okay. Shit starts to get real about seven levels in, and the slow-moving controls don’t really facilitate the quick movement needed to successfully navigate upwards. It’s also tricky to evade the zillion bullets coming your way when your vertical leap is that of a legless tree sloth. Yeah, there are power-ups that fix this, but it’s teeth-grindingly aggravating until that random item drop.

I haven’t played many rogue-like FPS games, but as far as my memory serves, Tower of Guns is a decent addition to this pantheon. The game’s level generation is awesome, especially when combined with the steampunk aesthetic and cel-shaded graphics.

Never-Alone-cover-image Never Alone by Upper One Games and E-Line Media
Grade: B+

I’m a bit of a sucker for puzzle platformers–especially those that involve an intelligent animal companion. In Never Alone the player takes control of an Iñupiat girl and her arctic fox as they quest across the Alaskan tundra in search of the man who destroyed her village. Each character has specific strengths and weaknesses that the player must understand and use to get through environmental puzzles.

The game reminds me of Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts in both gameplay and in the fact that it’s packed with tons of fascinating information about the Alaskan environment as well as Iñupiat culture and folklore. As the player progresses, he/she unlocks mini-documentaries that were put together with the help of honest to agaayun Iñupiat tribespeople.

As a hybrid of a documentary film and a video game, Never Alone delves into territory that is as uncharted as the Alaskan wilderness. It’s not often that an engaging game rewards your hard work with bits of knowledge instead of points or achievements, and it’s something that I think more games should feature. As long as it’s interesting, of course. I wouldn’t want to cleverly elude a polar bear just to be rewarded with a video that chronicles the origins of polyester, for example.

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Video Games: The Movie…Or Is It?

Video Games MovieEver since the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead, I’ve been looking for things to fill the zombie-shaped hole in my Sunday night TV watching. While searching my Netflix queue, I scrolled past Video Games: The Movie for the billionth time and decided that tonight was the night that I’d watch that beast. While it didn’t satisfy me in the visceral, “everything’s gone to hell” way that The Walking Dead does, it had its moments–interspersed with a lot of self-congratulatory posturing, that is.

The whole point of a documentary is to either prove some kind of point or to raise awareness for a specific cultural phenomena. What separates good documentaries from not-so-good documentaries, however, is defined by the film’s use of one tiny word: objectivity. A good documentary makes its point or shares its concept objectively, allowing the viewer to form their own opinions about the content. When this doesn’t happen, you’re left with something that veers into propaganda territory, which is both dangerous and insulting.

While I wouldn’t call Video Games: The Movie a propaganda piece, it was sorely lacking in objectivity. Instead, the filmmakers gathered up a large amount of video game developers and celebrities whose nerdité is inextricably tied to their notoriety. They are all pleasant enough, and they’re honest about the impact that gaming has had on their lives, but none of them are going to offer a point of view that allows for a proper discourse on their thesis–many of rely on video games for their livelihood.

Additionally, I couldn’t help but notice how the film glossed over certain gaming controversies. While I don’t think there’s much of a relationship between video games and violent behavior, the film touched upon the controversy only to criticize it. It would have been interesting to bring in someone who might deign to disagree with the people who crank out the stuff for a living. Even though the film was pre-Gamergate, it was surprising that the it didn’t mention any disparity between male and female gamers. In fact, it seemed to be contributing to that disparity by featuring the statistic that 47% of gamers are women while simultaneously featuring a cast that is only 8% female.  Though it was inadvertent, the film managed to position itself as a convincing piece of evidence regarding the long history of gender stereotyping that has plagued the gaming community since its birth.

Also, can we please give the “nerds get picked on” trope a rest? I can’t think of a better time to be a nerd/geek than right now. The job market is recruiting STEM majors like crazy, everyone who lives and works in a developed part of the world is dependent on technology, comic book movies are dominating the box office, video games are studied on college campuses, and we have a new Star Wars trilogy on the way. When will it be enough for nerds to say, “You know what? We’re good. Thanks, world.”

If you’re after a documentary that offers a few interesting factoids about the evolution of the gaming industry while making you feel like patting yourself on the back for being in to video games since the Atari age, then this is worth dedicating a Sunday night to–at least until The Walking Dead comes back on.

 

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Top 10 Video Games of 2014

Fight GIF

Though 2014 was the year that publishers finally started cranking out worthwhile content for the PS4 and Xbox One, I continued to be impressed by the work of a few indie developers thanks to my rapidly expanding Steam library. Before I kick off my list, I’d like to throw out some honorable mentions for Alien: Isolation and Dragon Age: Inquisition, which are two games that I haven’t played yet, but know I will love the hell out of them when I get them as Christmas presents from my mom.

 

theelderscrollsonline10) The Elder Scrolls Online
Zenimax/Bethesda

Many MMORPG’s have tried to capture me with their siren song of online heroism, but The Elder Scrolls Online was the one that came the closest to succeeding. Not as cartoonish and mainstream as World of Warcraft, ESO channeled the old school D&D vibe that I grew up on. Not only did the game open up the entire continent of Tamriel for exploration, but it offered the same gameplay and customization nuances that made Skyrim such an amazing piece of interactive entertainment. My trial period for the game lasted 3 months, during which I merely scratched the surface of the game’s potential. If they tacked on an extra free month, they might have had me hooked for life.

 

9) Age of Wonders III
Triumph Studios

There were a lot of great additions to the 4x genre this year (I was really, really close to giving this spot to Amplitude’s Endless Legend), but Age of Wonders III was the one that stood out to me the most. Triumph Studios was able to capture a rare balance of old-school gaming nostalgia and new-school aesthetic. The game is absolutely gorgeous, offering up vividly-rendered landscapes to conquer, along with enough class/racial customization to please the most hardcore RPG fan. For those who appreciate the fantasy genre for its ability to create a temporary escape from reality, Age of Wonders III is well worth the countless hours you’re likely to spend with it.

 

Transistor8) Transistor
Supergiant

Perhaps the most jaw-droppingly beautiful game on this list, Transistor also manages to throw a new spin on the top-down platformer. Taking control of Red, a lounge-singing murder suspect on the run through a neon, circuital city presents a unique type of combat that rewards strategic planning. It’s engaging enough to hack your way through hostile robots, but it’s really the game’s design that makes Transistor stand out. Supergiant has taken the melancholy and tech-saturated environment of Final Fantasy VII’s Midgar and given it a neo-noir jumpstart. It’s my go-to example when someone steps to me about video games not being an art form.

 

7) A Bird Story
Freebird Games

This effing game. It looks like it’s just going to be a harmless story about a boy and his bird, told through pixelated graphics and wistful music–which it was, if you think uncontrollable sobbing is harmless. The term “video game” can only be loosely applied to A Bird Story, it is nonetheless a powerful piece of storytelling. The only interaction that the player has with the story comes from thoughtfully-placed intervals that make you an emotional bitch when you have to push a button but really, really don’t want to.

 

6)Valiant Hearts: The Great WarValiant Hearts
Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft

There’s something about the strong contrast between Valiant Hearts and other games about war–which, let’s face it, there are a ton of. While your Call of Duty and your Battlefield glorify the act of war, Valiant Hearts offers a more realistic and heart-wrenching perspective. Like A Bird Story, Valiant Hearts is more of a visual short story that the player interacts with solely for the sake of the tale’s progression. It shifts perspectives between multiple characters, occasionally finding them working together, and overall, it leaves the player with a different perspective on how war not only decimates buildings, terrain, and the lives of soldiers, but it also strikes a vicious blow to cultural morality as well.

 

5) Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
Blizzard

Even though it felt like Hearthstone was developed on a whim by Blizzard, it managed to become one of the most addicting, free-to-play games out there–and it didn’t help that I’ve been a fan of Magic: The Gathering since high school. It would be easy to argue that Blizzard simply leveraged the popularity of World of Warcraft into the world of free-to-play gaming if Hearthstone wasn’t so damn fun. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this game is the fact that, though players can pony up actual cash for new packs of cards, you totally don’t have to for it to be an enjoyable experience.

 

4GTA V) Grand Theft Auto V
Rockstar

A video game for the Breaking Bad generation. GTA V doesn’t just settle for a gigantic, vibrant virtual city, excellently-tweaked vehicle controls, and enough Easter eggs to satisfy the most anal-retentive of gamers. Instead, it uses all of the above to craft a story that would make for award-winning television. Hell, why settle for TV? Give it the Oscar, already. Admittedly, I stuck around to see what seedy adventures were in store for our trio of ne’er-do-wells, but the cinematic quality of the gameplay and that feeling I got after completing my first heist were unforgettable.

 

Shadow-of-Mordor3) Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Monolith/Warner Bros. Interactive

After years of being a Lord of the Rings fan, and having suffered through several mediocre games based on the property, it’s so nice to have found one that does Middle Earth justice. Taking control of Talion the Dark Ranger and letting him loose in the Orcish fortresses of Mordor is a Tolkien fan’s dream. And the combat system! I loved it in the Batman: Arkham games, and it’s even better with swords in both hands–it’s all about the mid-combat beheadings. In addition to the above-mentioned awesomeness, Shadow of Mordor‘s Nemesis system creates a living hierarchy of enemies that grows and evolves along with your character–something I’ve never seen in a game before. I imagine the number of virtual bad guys that I’ve slaughtered is pretty substantial, but I remember very few of them. Each Orc that I put down in Shadow of Mordor makes damn sure that I remember our fight.

 

2) Destinydestiny-4th-horseman-exotic-shotgun
Bungie

Oh, the online playground that is Destiny. Despite the game’s lackluster storyline, when you simply view Destiny as an excuse to get with some buddies an blow the hell out of hostile aliens, there’s something very special here. By streamlining the MMO format and throwing some top-notch graphics and Bungie’s penchant for tight FPS controls, it’s something that is enjoyable in small bursts or when investing a few hours in the six-player Vault of Glass raid. I’m already struggling to contain my giddiness for the upcoming expansion–four-barreled shotgun!

 

Dungeon of the Endless1) Dungeon of the Endless
Amplitude

I fully realize that listing this title as my favorite title of the year is 100% an act of self-indulgence, but I can’t remember the last time a game appealed to such a large combination of my gaming interests. Dungeon of the Endless plays like a mixtape of the last few years’ most popular gaming trends. Usually when developers try to create a game that tries to blur the edges between gameplay dynamics, you get something like Brutal Legend–clunky, watered-down, and ultimately disappointing. Dungeon of the Endless pulls it all off very nicely, and it does so with great audio and visual style. It’s ambitious without being pretentious, and FlybyNo’s excellent soundtrack elevate this title into territory that is both familiar and new–and that’s what I love about video games.

 

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Local Eats: Mai Bun Mee

2014-11-14 19.05.47

Curry Noodle Bowl w/ Chili Lemongrass Pork

Mai Bun Mee
850 S. State St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84111
P: (801) 575-8888

I’m a staunch advocate of Oh Mai, Salt Lake’s finest purveyor of Vietnamese comfort food. My wife and I eat there at least once a week–though now that the weather is getting colder, I may need to gradually increase my pho consumption. When I heard that the success of Oh Mai’s two stellar locations had generated enough momentum to open a sister restaurant called Mai Bun Mee, it was a moral imperative to check the place out.

Those familiar with Oh Mai’s menu will recognize a similar culinary theme at Mai Bun Mee–the restaurant boasts a wide variety of bahn mi, traditional Vietnamese sandwiches on a French baguette, along with some rice and noodle bowls. Much like the trendier atmosphere of the restaurant, the menu appears to have been crafted with some more accessible options to diners who are unfamiliar to the world of Vietnamese sandwich-crafting. One thing that today’s conscious eater will appreciate is the wall adjacent to their menu which provides an exhaustive detailing of what menu items are gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian–it’s nice to see an eating establishment offer a proactive approach to dietary needs instead of rolling their eyes when asked to be accommodating.

Mai Bun Mee’s sandwich menu is vast, and surprisingly varied. Sandwiches can be ordered with fish, chicken meatballs, beef, or with veggies. It’s the kind of menu that begs you to try everything on it at least once. For our inaugural journey, my wife ordered a sandwich called the Fisherman ($6.98), which is a seared tilapia sandwich topped with mango slaw, cucumber, and garlic aioli. The tilapia was juicy and fresh, but I found that the other elements of the sandwich didn’t really pop as much as I was hoping. Tilapia and mango slaw is a match made in heaven, but the flavor combo wasn’t quite there. I also preferred the baguette at Oh Mai, which is a bit crustier on the outside, whereas the baguette here lacked the crunchy bite that I have come to expect from a bahn mi.

I ordered the Curry Noodle Bowl with Chili Lemongrass Pork ($7.48), and got that sucker slathered in their Hot Red curry sauce. There was a slight mix-up with my order–these things happen at new restaurants, and it was cheerfully rectified by a manager, who brought my order herself. The Curry Noodle Bowl is a comfy mix of rice noodles, taro, julienned carrots, and bean sprouts and they do not skimp on the sauce. The inclusion of taro instead of potato was interesting–the texture was more smooth and yielding than the traditional root veggie. As it should be, the sauce was the shining moment of this dish. It was indeed hot, but not too hot so as to burn away that earthy, coconut-laced flavor of a good curry. Delicious as it was, the curry flavor overpowered any remnants of the pork’s chili lemongrass seasoning, but the meat was tender and plentiful–plus pork always goes well with curry.

Overall, Mai Bun Mee feels like a well-thought out concept. It has the trendy design and easy service that is present at chain restaurants like Zupa’s or Rumbi, but it offers a menu that most diners will find intriguing without feeling alienated–not to mention the fact that it’s locally owned and operated. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Mai Bun Mee on Urbanspoon

Mai Bun Mee Sandwich Shop

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PSN Roundup & Junk Food Review: SteamWorld Dig & The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

It’s a new month, and with that new month comes two free games via PlayStation Plus. Since no video game is complete without some tasty snackfoods, here is all you need to know about November’s free games for PS4 along with a tasting menu of seasonal junk food.

SteamWorld

Watch out for them Shiners, Rusty.

 

SteamWorld Dig
Image&Form

Once the initial charm of SteamWorld Dig arrests your attention with it’s cleverly-animated robots and the dusty town of Tumbleton, it’s easy to be sucked in by hours of solid gameplay. Combining a dash of Metroid-vania level progression and a whole mess of valuables to dig up, this game hits all the right bases for a platformer. In addition to being disarmingly addictive, the game comes backed with a surprisingly eerie storyline that may or may not involve the human race’s inevitable self-destruction.

The game does a great job of adapting to the upgrades that you purchase. For example, when you get to the point that you’ve outfitted Rusty with hydraulic drills and jumping boots, the conservation of water becomes a new factor in how you play. In addition to the fact that you have to dig strategically in order to make the most of each tunnel run, the game presents some challenging moments as it progresses.

Though the trips back to town can be a bit frustrating as you tunnel your way into the deeper levels, there’s something satisfying about seeing your dollars add up, which can then be spent on nifty upgrades like a bigger backpack and teleportation devices.  Many games have offered this cyclical approach–you play the game to earn money, money upgrades your character so you can keep playing the game–but few of them have made it such an enjoyable adventure.

2014-11-04 21.12.45

Not a bad way to appreciate the finer things.

Junk Food Tasting Menu: Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s & Pumpkin Spice Milanos

As SteamWorld Dig is an impressive work of balance among several excellent gameplay elements, having a bag or box of the two best types of pumpkin sandwich cookies nearby is the best way to appreciate what the game represents.

The Trader Joe’s equivalent of Oreo’s, Joe-Joe’s are superior in nearly every way. Their filling is creamier, their cookie is more flavorful, and they’re slightly less-processed. Having tried both the Pumpkin Spice Oreo’s and Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s, I can safely assure you that these lovely little sandwich cookies are perfect companions to take with you while you figure out the mystery below Tumbleton. 

For those that need to remember the finer things in life while exploring what very well could be the last remnants of humanity, the Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Milano is a more high-end sandwich cookie. They have everything a traditional Milano has–milk chocolate and an airy, crunchy cookie–but these come with an added layer of pumpkin icing, which is a great complement to the chocolate.  Munch on a few of these as you ruminate on what those emaciated creatures beneath Tumbleton sacrificed in their misguided quest for power.

Isaac

Why yes, that IS everything you were ever scared of.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Nicalis, Inc.

The original Binding of Isaac was my first foray into the now-trendy rogue-like genre–games that allow only one playthrough per life–and it’s the standard by which I measure all subsequent games in that genre. Stylistically, Isaac is a throwback to the original Legend of Zelda game on NES. The player navigates through different rooms filled with monsters, while finding treasure and powerups along the way. What makes Isaac fresh and inventive is it’s completely nutballs story. The titular character is a small boy who has escaped his religiously fanatical mother (who believes she has been commanded by God to kill her son) by hiding in the basement. Little does Isaac know that the basement is filled with horrifying mannikins and disfigured bosses with names like The Blighted Ovum and The Duke of Flies. Everything about this game is designed to prey upon our earliest childhood fears as we guide Isaac (did I mention that his primary weapon is his own tears?) through his nightmares and to an inevitable confrontation with his mother.

One of the things that sets Isaac apart from other rogue-likes is that your character does get tougher as you play, giving you a serious shot at beating it in a single playthrough. The powerups end up stacking to add up to a character that can tangle with the increased difficulty as the game progresses.

The Rebirth edition offers some new bells and whistles like a new soundtrack, a wider variety of powerups, more unlockable characters, and gigantic rooms that take twice as long to clear. Graphically, I was hoping for a smoother transition from the original PC version to the PS4, but something about the deliberately pixelated animation does manage to capture a part of my video game nostalgia–and pervert it with the game’s ineherent weirdness.

2014-11-04 21.15.44

Abba-Zaba, you’re my only friend.

Junk Food Tasting Menu: Snack-Sized Abba-Zaba & Candy Corn Gummies

The Binding of Isaac is an unholy union of childhood gaming and childhood night-terrors. As such, it only makes sense to snack on this pair of candies that I found as part of a post-Halloween sale at the grocery store (only a buck fifty for both bags!).  Abba-Zaba takes peanut butter and swirls it with the mysteriously textured white taffy that one might find in a Big Hunk.  Despite sounding gross on paper, the result is actually pretty damn tasty.  Going snack-sized is preferable to the full-sized Abba-Zaba, since the amount of chewing it takes to finish one of those puppies off usually keeps one busy for a good six hours.

Candy corn is one of the most polarizing Halloween treats around.  I’ve only talked to people who love it whole-heartedly or completely despise it.  Don’t even talk to them about candy pumpkins–I nearly lost an eye last time I made that mistake.  It’s also one of those candies that can’t be remade into something else.  Whatever the hell candy corn is, it will always be candy corn.

Or so I thought.

While Candy Corn Gummies–created by the ominously-named Foreign Candy Company–look like swollen versions of the traditional waxy candy, their flavor isn’t quite that of the original.  There’s a weird fruitiness present, and I can tell that they were trying to capture the candy corn flavor, but it just didn’t work out.  Regardless, this is something you eat because it’s weird as hell–which is the same reason you play a game like The Binding of Isaac.

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Local Eats: Sushi Burrito on 8th

Behold the Typhoon!

Behold the Typhoon!

Sushi Burrito on 8th
180 E 800 S, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
P: 801-995-0909
Web:http://sushiburritoutah.com/

At first, throwing the words “sushi” and “burrito” together in the same sentence might seem like an exercise in absurdity. What would such a high-class culinary staple like sushi be doing in the same back alley as a gooey, overstuffed burrito? This was my perspective when I first heard of this little joint that has re-purposed the shack that used to be Guzzi’s Burgers. Just because I couldn’t mentally comprehend this juxtaposition, however, didn’t mean I wasn’t intrigued.

When I arrived with my posse, the place was packed. Diners who were eagerly awaiting their orders spilled out into the streets, and it soon became clear that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to see the marriage between Japanese fine dining and Latin-American street food.

Despite the high volume of customers, it didn’t take long to elbow-check our way to the cashier and place our orders. I went with the Typhoon ($9.99), which was stuffed with Albacore tuna, crab salad, cucumber, and avocado, and my wife ordered the Citrus ($8.99) which came with salmon, crab salad, and a slice of lemon.

After we pounced on a recently vacated table, I tried to mentally note when the people ahead of us in line got their orders. Based on the number of people ahead of us and the fact that this place is fairly new, I anticipated us getting our food sometime next week. Regardless of my pessimism, our food came quite promptly–the service was definitely working it.

Unwrapping my brand new sushi burrito was not unlike unwrapping a mystery gift at Christmas. I expected something vaguely burrito-shaped, but would that be the extent of its burrito heritage? Removing the wax paper, I discovered something genius about Sushi Burrito’s culinary concept. What stood before me, daring me to take my first bite, was a thickly-stuffed sushi roll that had simply not been cut into its characteristic discs. Rather than utilizing a tortilla to keep its innards nicely tucked inside, Sushi Burrito stuck to a sheet of nori–which, upon further contemplation, works exactly the same way.

My first bite hit me with everything that I love about sushi–fluffy sticky-rice, fresh, raw tuna, with that mayo-y goodness of the crab salad. The veggies were fresh and crisp, and the slice of avocado drove it home. As with other sushi restaurants, the burrito comes with slices of pickled ginger and wasabi. The ginger was easy to pick up and add to each bite, but the lack of utensils made wasabi application a dangerous process. I found that my wife made the better choice with the Citrus–that thin spiral of lemon really made the flavors of the salmon come to life.

There were some parts of the meal that I wish were a bit more burrito and less sushi, but they mainly had to do with the burrito’s construction. Where a traditional burrito uses the tortilla to completely envelop its gushy innards, the giant sushi roll leaves both ends open–which made the sushi burrito come apart fairly messily once I got to the end. The risk of filling eruption is occasionally increased by the chewiness of the nori–it takes a bit of strategic biting to make sure the fish, rice, and veggies don’t spill out of the opposite end.

All things considered, the world needs a place like Sushi Burrito. For too long, sushi has been associated with an air of douchebaggery; conjuring images of slick, young capitalists who use the odious term “let’s do sushi” when setting up their business lunches. What Sushi Burrito has done is taken the flavors and experience of eating sushi and given it a creative overhaul for those of us who just like how it tastes.

Sushi Burrito on Urbanspoon

Sushi Burrito

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