Restaurant Review: Food Review

Culinary experimentalists will appreciate this mischievous take on Americana

Roll On Sushi Diner

5350 Burnet Rd. #2, 512/454-7655,
Mon.-Thu., 11am-9pm; Fri., 11am-10pm; Sat., noon-10pm; Sun., 4-9pm
Food Review
Photo by John Anderson

Roll On Sushi Diner

5350 Burnet Rd. #2, 454-7655
Monday-Saturday, 11am-2:30pm & 5-9pm

There's no doubt things are happening on Burnet Road these days. As we reported a few weeks ago and earlier this summer (Aug. 5 and June 17 issues), there's a bumper crop of new dining options, with more in cultivation. One of the newest additions to Burnet Road's culinary parade is Roll On Sushi Diner, which opened in August on the ground floor of the new AMLI development near North Loop.

Food Review
Photo by John Anderson

Brothers Chip and Chad Reed have adapted the Japanese sushi concept and hybridized it to include a global tour of tastes. The result is a fast-food-style sushi bar with what they call Austin flair. The first thing you notice about Roll On is the bar, which occupies almost the entire restaurant space. This makes dining in appealing for solos and parties of two, but larger groups will no doubt fare better someplace with proper tables. Event dining is clearly not where Roll On is aiming; this concept-driven cafe seems custom-designed for quick bites and takeout. The bright-red counter tops, white penny tile accents, and lime-green wall trim signal playfulness. It's a playfulness that spills over to the menu, which is practically a culinary romper room. Think Torchy's Tacos dressed up as sushi.

Anyone up for a chicken-fried steak roll? For those craving sushi, the Cholesta Roll ($5.95) may sound unappealing, but culinary experimentalists will appreciate the mischievous take on Americana. It is mashed potatoes, thinly sliced grilled steak, and crisp green beans all rolled up in a soy wrap, then deep fried. The whole thing is sliced maki-style and presented over bacon­y cream gravy. I sampled this (I admit a little reluctantly) at Roll On's preopening party in early August, and I was frankly delighted by how tasty it was. Others who have tried it agree, and it has already become one of Roll On's most popular dishes. On another occasion I was equally pleased with the Rolltalian Stallion ($5.95), a rice paper roll stuffed with summery tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and lettuce, all drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. It's basically a Caprese salad all rolled up and portable.

Next stop: the Elvis Roll ($5.95), an intrepid amalgam of deep-fried peanut butter, banana, and bacon paired with chocolate sauce, which I confess I'm still gathering my courage to try.

Traditionalists, fear not. There are plenty of conventional maki options here. Plain ol' salmon ($3.95), cucumber ($3.95), tuna ($4.95), and California rolls ($3.95) are still on the menu, but these are not Roll On's real focus. Instead, expect to sample sushi themes with a small twist. The Guaca-rolly ($6.95) is a good example. This dish rolls up spiced tuna and tempura shrimp with lime guacamole over a fan of spicy mayonnaise. It's fresh and flavorful, though I thought the too-small portion of mayonnaise got a little lost in the mix. Riffing on a similar theme, the Beefy Texan Bowl ($.6.95) does a makeover on a traditional rice bowl. Smoked beef brisket over rice, served with wasabi coleslaw, avocado, nori, and spicy mayonnaise. The pairing of smoked meat with a delicate horseradish-laced slaw really works. But the cook who prepared our bowl forgot the avocado and the nori flakes.

There are still a few kinks to iron out in terms of predictability at Roll On. The dishes described on the menu don't always match the food on the plate, and I get the sense the kitchen staff is still experimenting with what sells and what doesn't; thisis to be expected at a new restaurant. Inconsistency aside, I suspect iconoclastic dishes like the Cholesta Roll are destined to become Austin classics.

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Roll On Sushi Diner, Burnet Road, Chip Reed, Chad Reed, Sushi

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