The Austin Chronicle

Roll On Sushi Diner

By Kate Thornberry, August 15, 2012, 1:15pm, On the Range

The other day Mr. Thornberry and I went out to dinner with famous photographer Todd Wolfson and local bon vivant Mickey Mann. They mentioned Roll On Sushi Diner as a restaurant option, but we ended up going to the iconic Frisco Shop instead.

But I remembered their positive words about Roll On, and when I got an invite a few days later to attend a MEDIA PARTY (I wish I could write that in a hilarious font, you know, with the letters are dancing every which a way…like on a birthday card. They should have a font called “Festive!” that looks like that! Or possibly they could call it “Drunken”) I RSVP-ed “I will be there!”

So tonight I went and got to taste a sampling of their menu. Typically, at a MEDIA PARTY you are invited to sample various bites of things that are carried around on a tray by a server, with cocktail napkins. (Which is perfectly fine, I ain’t complaining!) But tonight, we were provided with a full-size appetizer, two entire rolls, and a dessert EACH. In a way it was good, because it was much easier to evaluate what you get for your money.

Roll On Sushi Diner is very casual and diner-like; not like an old-fashioned diner (like the Frisco) but more like a tasteful fast-food place. It has two long bars facing each other with cooks in the middle, and round stools to sit on, and everything is formica. The prices are low ($3.95-$6.95) and the menu is pretty ambitious, very Asian Fusion. In fact, not just Asian Fusion, but AUSTIN fusion! They have a chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes roll, for instance, and another roll named “The Leslie”, and one that incorporates goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.

The Leslie: Spicy Tuna, soft-shell crab, guacamole, and unagi sauce. It was very good and very large, and the tempura soft shell crab was excellent. I thought “For $6.95 this is a steal!” but it turns out that this roll isn’t on the main menu, it was a special and costs $12.95. Which only makes sense, as soft-shell crab isn’t cheap.

The Cholesta-Roll($6.50): Chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes and green beans, all done up in a sesame soy wrapper, served with cream gravy. This roll is exactly what it claims to be, but except for being served in slices like sushi, it really JUST IS a small serving of chicken-fried steak. There isn’t really any fusion going on. Really tasty! I found no fault with it. I suppose if you want to go out for sushi but you are with a sushi-phobe, it is a way that THEY can have chicken-fried steak instead. (Roll On also has a fried chicken roll…when you want sushi but the other person doesn’t, this place is PERFECT! Actually, in Real Life that happens to me all the time.)

I also sampled (because Jen from Miso Hungry offered me a bite) The Dream Roll: Shrimp, spicy tuna, cream cheese, crab, yellowtail, salmon, avocado and scallions with unagi sauce, and it was just wonderful (and also $12.95)

At that point I was beyond full, and I didn’t even WANT my free dessert! So I just had a bite of Jen’s Fried Ice Cream. I wasn’t feeling enthusiastic about Fried Ice Cream in general, it is so dated. The last time I had one was at a Holiday Inn and I didn’t really have fond memories of it, you know, as a dish. But Roll On’s fried Ice cream is made with Amy’s Mexican Vanilla and served on top of a strawberry shiso sauce with a balsamic reduction (see? like I said, this place is ambitious). It was really good. G O O D. If I had known it was going to be that good, I would have managed to cram it in. Thank Goodness I didn’t know!

The manager and staff were super-nice, but I got the feeling that the kitchen is not yet a well-oiled machine. I have to add, even if things came out a little slow and not in order and not necessarily to the right person at first, STILL- the place was spotless and every ingredient in every roll was marvelously fresh and delicious. I really liked the overall culinary adventuresome-ness of the place. Definitely check them out if you are on Burnet Road and wanting to try something new.

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