Berkeley's Sumo Grub Basks in Publicity — and Soy Oil


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Sumo Grub — which might actually be Berkeley's most subversive hotspot, with its tempura-fried pizza, tempura-fried mac-and-cheese, tempura-fried Kit-Kats, and tempura-fried darn near everything else — has been basking in a media blitz this week.

On Sunday, a crew from the Food Network was in the house filming an episode of its "Outrageous Food" show. On Monday, an item about Sumo Grub and its owner Jason Sum appeared in the Chron, thanks to Berkeleyside. This follows coverage in Diablo magazine and other venues. Of course, the East Bay Express discovered Sumo Grub first, a few weeks after it opened across from Berkeley High School last July.

This afternoon, a crew from KNTV was in Sumo Grub's kitchen, filming Sum and his head cook tempura-frying Oreos, cheesecake, burgers, pizza, and more. (The result is golden-crisp outside, melty-creamy inside, and lighter-tasting than regular batter-fried food, because it's done Japanese-style: a three-step process involving homemade panko breadcrumbs.) Sum explained to KNTV reporter Joe Rosato and a happy crowd of diners that he considers his fare fun food for everyone.

Three words: Tempura. Fried. Pizza.
  • Three words: Tempura. Fried. Pizza.
He described the fried items as classic American fast food elevated a notch or two toward ultimate rarefied fantasticness. And to those who might criticize the calorie/artery factor, Sum pointed out that at least he offers choices: Along with the fried goodies, his menu also includes salads, rice plates, and vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free items.

The episode (which — full disclosure here — might also include a little footage of me) will air as part of tonight's 6 p.m. news show.