It’s perfectly easy to find food at off-hours in Bushwick, at places like Faro and Fritzl’s (open until 11pm), as well as Momo Sushi Shack and Tchoup Shop, which both sling grub till midnight. But where do the famished souls serving your late night eats get their late night eats? The answer is UMi Bushwick, serving Asian-inspired buns out of Sweet & Shiny bakery, from 9pm-4am Thursdays through Saturdays.
Launched a few months ago by friends Renel Sun and Phoebe Tran, who fled NYU in 2014 in order to test the culinary waters abroad (resulting in ventures like Shanghai Supperclub and Burger Babes Shanghai) the Brooklyn pop-up is heavily inspired by their travels through Asia. That being said, the base for their grab-and-go sandwiches bear very little resemblance to marshmallowy, crescent-shaped Chinese steam buns, and are instead more akin to brioche; the deeply burnished breads are made with high-extraction flour from Farmer Ground in upstate NY, and studded with crushed potato chips.
There are generally four rotating options on the menu at a time, ranging from $8.50-10.50 a pop (the Cali-style “Best Coast Bun,” comprised of organic portobellos, beetroot hummus, pickled grapes, avocado salsa and kale, has, unfortunately, been discontinued). Instead, vegetarians can opt for the Hong Kong “Char-Siu” bun, containing shiny slabs of barbecued mock duck, pickled pineapple and hot mustard aioli, although its awfully hard to resist UMi’s trio of exciting, meatier alternatives.
There’s a Vietnamese “Bun-Mi,” of course, featuring caramel-crusted heritage pork with pickled veggies, fried shallots, crushed peanuts and fresh herbs, and the Chinese “Mala-Bun;” made with grass-fed Szechuan meatballs, drizzled with sesame sauce, and finished with pickled Asian pear, bok choy salad, and curls of crispy wonton. The spendiest sandwich is the Japanese “Oishi,” and its easy to see why—smeared with yuzu koshu aioli and topped with pickled shitakes and bonito flakes, the bun features filets of wild blue catfish sourced from Greenpoint Fish & Lobster, prepared à la unagi (eel), that is, shellacked with a soy and mirin “kabayaki” glaze, and torched by hand.
For now, the duo intends to keep UMi operational through the end of the summer, so if you plan to spend your carefree evenings barhopping in Bushwick, go ahead and stay around for last call. Because as long as Sun and Tran are burning the midnight oil in their tiny establishment on Knickerbocker, you can blissfully alleviate those alcohol-fueled, after-hours munchies with high-quality, Asian-flavored buns.
214 Knickerbocker Avenue, Bushwick umibushwick.com