Pacific Overtures | Food News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Pacific Overtures 

Side Dishes: San Sai Japanese restaurant coming to Burlington

Published April 26, 2011 at 6:06 p.m.

Since Taste closed at 112 Lake Street in Burlington in 2009, the prime restaurant real estate has remained vacant. Until now. On May 5, a Japanese restaurant called San Sai will open its doors.

According to co-owner Chris Russo, in modern Japanese san sai refers to produce grown in the mountains. In an older version of the language, he says, it means “foraged edible.” Both meanings seem appropriate for the restaurant’s business model.

Though Russo remains tightlipped on the identity of his business partner, the Vermont Secretary of State’s office confirms that it is Kazutoshi Maeda, a Japanese native who has been chef and owner at New York City restaurants for the past 35 years. In 2001, he opened Tsuki, a beloved midtown sushi spot, but he will come to Vermont to open San Sai. Says Russo, “My business partner, he’s the head, I’m the arm.” The “head” will train the “arm” to take over the role of head chef eventually, he adds.

Maeda’s experience aside, don’t expect sushi to be one of the major attractions at San Sai. “Up until recent times in Japan, sushi was a treat, not everyday food,” Russo explains. Instead, the focus will be on handmade dishes crafted from local products. “It’s big for this area, but that’s how most people eat in Japan,” says Russo of the localvore trend. “Their cuisine is based on local, seasonal ingredients.”

Russo has partnered with Tamarack Hollow Farm, where Amanda Andrews is growing a laundry list of Japanese fruits and vegetables specifically for San Sai. Burdock and bitter melon are in the ground, as are shiso and Japanese varieties of turnips, gourds and cucumbers.

Tamarack Hollow will also supply chickens, which Russo will use for yakitori. “We will be using about every part,” he says of the traditional skewered fowl. “Chicken heart, cartilage, tendons … and not just chicken; there’ll be pork, beef and vegetables, too.”

At San Sai, Russo says, vegetarian fare will be far from an afterthought. Tofu will be made in-house and used in cold dishes this summer and hot pots in the cold months, when Japanese curries are also likely to grace the menu.


San Sai, 112 Lake Street, Burlington, 862-2777

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Alice Levitt

Alice Levitt

AAN award-winning food writer Alice Levitt is a fan of the exotic, the excellent and automats. She wrote for Seven Days 2007-2015.


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Food News

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation