Sumo Grub’s outrageous food captures TV attention

Jason Sum sits with a "Six Feet Under".

Jason Sum specializes in fried Twinkies. And fried Oreos. And fried pizza. And fried macaroni and cheese.

Sum, the owner of Sumo Grub, a tiny restaurant squeezed into a squat blue building right across from Berkeley High, has become so well known for his tempura-battered novelties that the Food Network came to film them on February 15. Sum and his creations will be featured on a show called “Outrageous Food,” hosted by Tom Pizzica.

The show is billed as “a quest to unearth the most jaw-dropping, eye-popping, occasionally heart-stopping foods in the country — dishes that give “outrageous” a whole new meaning.”

And Sum’s concoctions certainly fit that description. Take the “Six Feet Under,” (a sly reference to the artery-clogging properties of the dish.) It includes six tempura-fried hamburger patties, all covered with different sauces. (Think mango salsa, homemade Kim chi, peanut sauce, wasabi mayo, and more), two fried slices of macaroni and cheese, five fried Twinkies, and a bunch of fried Oreos. It sells for $45.

And the food is good. The reviews on Yelp are almost all complimentary, although patrons seem to feel somewhat guilty for enjoying it.

“I really don’t know what to say about Sumo Grub,” Mel B. from Hercules wrote. “Part of me wants to say, “this joint is so bad for your health”, and a part of me want, to say “WOW this place rocks”. If you think about a pizza, pour some cheese whiz, then sprinkle some jelly beans on top, then fry it with tempura (no they do not have this on their menu, I don’t think), then you pretty much captured the concept of Sumo Grub. Their motto is they “will tempura anything.”

Sum is actually an experienced cook and restaurant owner. He grew up in a family of restaurateurs and was put to work by his mother washing dishes when he was 8. His family now owns The Berkeley Thai House on Channing near Telegraph, as well as other restaurants.

Sumo Grub on Milvia Street.

Sum and his wife Nalinee took over the space vacated by Doggie High in the fall of 2010. They wanted to create a unique eatery, one using fresh ingredients with an Asian twist. While many of the items on the menu are fried, Sumo Grub makes its own tempura batter and panko crumbs, which gives a crispy, not greasy finish to the food. There are other non-fried products on the menu, such as Angus beef burgers and an organic Romaine lettuce salad, said Sum.

“You can call it fusion,” said Sum. “My palate, I don’t like fusion at all. I don’t see the point of putting pad thai in a tortilla. I make American fast food, but using the best products I can find. I like to take things to the next level.”

The Outrageous Food episode featuring Sumo Grub should run sometime in April, said Sum.

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  • Name Withheld

    Sounds fun! I’ll have to swing by sometime to check it out.
    Does anyone know if they have an alcohol license, or if they allow patrons to bring in outside drinks?

    According to their Yelp page they have a few specials running right now:
    Free drink w/ purchase of any Rice Plate
    Free Tempura Oreos when you spend over $15
    Free Thai Ice Tea upgrade for all combo meal
    CODE: yelp

  • Rick

    That might explain the profile of a lot of the kids I see exiting Berkeley High. You don’t think there’s an obesity problem in the U.S.? Drop by around lunch time.

  • Jay

    I’m sure every health insurance company in America loves this place–heart disease = cha ching!

  • Name Withheld

    @ Rick ––– I used to pass by BHS while the kids were milling around before school every day on my morning commute. The vast majority seemed to be of a relatively healthy BMI. Perhaps only the obese ones go off-campus for lunch?

  • berkopinionator

    Sumo has room for improvement in the area of kitchen and personal hygiene:
    http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/environmentalhealth/inspections.asp

  • Mike

    You’re full of crap, Rick. Almost all Berkeley High kids are thin and look like they’re in pretty good shape.

  • Alan

    Yes, and he also does a double dipped fried top-dog as well as a new beverage,
    a supersized container of emulsified fried barf (very tangy)

  • http://www.mlisakelley@blogspot.com M’Lisa Kelley

    Dear Lord! Is this what we really need? Especially across from the high school?
    With the childhood obesity and diabetes showing that our kids will lead shorter lives than
    we will with these record numbers? (straight from the director’s mouth at Children’s Hospital)
    Perhaps we can send Sumo the hospital bills. So disappointing.

  • EBGuy

    Someone (else?) was filming at around 2:00 today.

  • Potatoe

    Yes, there was another filming today. It was by NBC News at 6pm!! I guess they are doing something right!! By the way they do carry vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free dishes. I guess you morons, that had a negative view about the place even before trying their food either rode the short bus or ate in the cafeteria by themselves while playing with a 32 sided dice!

  • Name Withheld

    If you don’t like it, don’t eat there.

    It’s not like eating a fried Twinkie once in a while is any worse than the garbage they sell at McDonald’s.

    It’s a free market. Let people make their own decisions.

  • Name Withheld

    EDIT:

    It’s SUPPOSED to be a free market.

  • j.l.

    This place Rocks!!!!

    Jason is a creative genius.

    unique food you can’t get anywhere else. Tasty, fast and fresh.

    Thank you Sumo Grub.

  • http://twitter.com/lilianajoo Liliana Joo

    This places is totes delish! Ate here today the tempura twinkies and tempura snickers. TOTALLY WORTH IT. Gonna hit it up with my roomie sometime next week to try other stuff!