ADDRESS: 806 East 3rd Street #100, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Japanese handrolls were not something that I had previously frequented very often. Whenever I’d go to Japanese restaurants, I would typically go for maki or sashimi. But I have my friend Emily to thank for helping to broaden my horizons and introducing me to the art that is Japanese handrolls.
We took a trip down to the Arts District to go to Yunomi Handroll, a Japanese handroll bar that Emily had been to before. It’s a first-come, first-serve restaurant, with bar-style seating only. The place itself seats approximately 20 people; we had arrived here early for dinner, and maybe half of those seats were already filled with other parties. By the time that we left, however, it was prime dinnertime, and the bar was jam-packed, along with people already waiting for next available seating.
It was difficult to choose between all of the handroll selections on their menu, because everything just sounded so good. In addition to their individual ingredient handrolls, like salmon, tuna, scallops, or albacore, you also had some of their specialty handrolls, such as unagi or soft shell crab. If you feel like munching on something else in addition to the handrolls, there are also the seafood and vegetable appetizers that you can order from the kitchen as well.
I had read some good things about the Rock Shrimp Tempura appetizer dish, so that made it onto our list. We paired that with the Spicy Albacore Sashimi with Crunchy Onion before we moved on to our handroll selection. I ended up trying out four rolls total by the end of the meal: Spicy Salmon, Unagi, Soft Shell Crab, and the Negi Toro. I liked the fact that it also gave me a nice spread of different seafood flavors on top of the appetizers.
From what I could gather, the philosophy behind the bar setup is that the handroll chef will place the freshly made handroll in front of you to enjoy immediately. They will also wait until you’ve finished eating your current roll before placing the next one in front, to help minimize the time between finished product and when you’re consuming it. For some of the handrolls (like the ones with hot ingredients inside), it would help to prevent the handroll from getting soggy before you tried picking it up.
The kitchen had our rock shrimp tempura and spicy albacore sashimi appetizers out to the bar in almost back-to-back succession. I tell you what, that rock shrimp tempura looked as good as the pictures made it out to be. Each piece of shrimp was a fairly good size, fried with tempura batter, tossed in a sriracha mayo, and finished with scallions, sesame seeds, and a dusting of red chili flakes. Each bite had savory and spicy flavors from the sauce, along with a slightly sweet flavor from the shrimp.
For the spicy albacore sashimi, the plate looked like it got buried in an avalanche of crunchy onions. But once you were able to fish out a piece of the albacore and top it with some of the crunchy onions, you got a nice texture blend of the soft albacore with the crunch of the fried onions. The albacore being drizzled with some chili oil helped to give the bite a slight bit of heat as an aftertaste, too.
Once our appetizer plates were cleared out of the way, that signaled it was handroll time. The first one served up by the chef was the spicy salmon, which had been diced up into chunks and tossed in a spicy mayo. I really liked how the ratio between the spicy salmon and rice was well balanced with each bite. The only thing I would have wanted was the spice level to have been a bit higher.
The next handroll up, the soft shell crab, was a bit more of a visual treat. The lightly battered and fried soft shell crab had the claw sticking out of one end of the roll. The soft shell crab had been freshly fried from the kitchen, and I could feel the heat when I grabbed the handroll to begin eating. There was a great crunch texture, and I also enjoyed the light brush of soy sauce on the top of the handroll to help give some additional umami flavor.
Unagi was next, as a bit of a tribute to my mom, since she always enjoys getting eel handrolls when we went out to sushi restaurants. Because the unagi was baked, it had a really nice rich umami flavor, especially when paired with the eel sauce as well. There were also thin strips of cucumber to balance the heaviness from the eel and that helped to end each bite on a light, refreshing note.
Last, but not least, was the negi toro. This was actually a last-minute add after Emily mentioned just how good it was, and I knew I didn’t want to miss out. The chopped blue fin fatty tuna is mixed with scallions and had such a smooth texture with each bite. You could taste the pure umami from the fish; this roll, for me, encapsulated the experience of being able to appreciate the unadulterated flavor profile of just the fish, rice, and seaweed.
I’ve been converted into a handroll believer. I’m glad that we stopped in when we did, because the place really did get so much more crowded later on that we likely would have needed to wait for a spot. With the handrolls made right in front of you, it doesn’t get much fresher than that. I was still thinking about the handrolls days after we visited, and I would definitely make the drive all the way down to the Arts District again to have some more.
Let’s now take a look at the Yunomi Handroll Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Rock Shrimp Tempura **
Tempura fried rock shrimp tossed with house spicy mayo, seasoned with shichimi togarashi, scallions, and sesame seeds.
** Spicy Albacore Crunchy Onion Sashimi **
Albacore sashimi drizzled with chili oil and topped with crunchy onions.
** Spicy Salmon Handroll **
Diced salmon tossed with house spicy mayo, wrapped with seaweed.
** Soft Shell Crab Handroll **
Lightly battered soft shell crab, wrapped with seaweed.
** Unagi Handroll **
Baked eel with cucumber strips, wrapped with seaweed.
** Negi Toro Handroll **
Chopped bluefin fatty tuna, mixed with scallions, wrapped with seaweed.
And finally, here are my rankings for Yunomi Handroll:
Food: 5 / 5
Every roll that I tried was a hit. The menu offers a good variety for the different types of handrolls, and the seafood appetizers are fantastic, too. Every bite tasted super fresh and the flavors were really on point.
Atmosphere: 4.75 / 5
I really did like the bar-style seating, with the sleek one-piece wood surface look. The place felt modern, was well-lit, and I also liked the ripple effect art that was molded into the back wall (where a small opening was actually the pass-through between the bar and kitchen).
Service: 4.75 / 5
Our waitress was really pleasant to talk to and did a great job to make us feel welcome. She would stop by a few times to see how we were doing on food and if we wanted to go for more. I also thought that the handroll chefs did a nice job to pace us through our meal, watching as we finished our previous rolls before serving us our next ones.
Price: 4.75 / 5
Depending on what type of handroll you got, it could range from $4 – $10 per handroll. Our seafood appetizers were also priced at $13 or $14, which I thought was pretty reasonable as well. All things considered, it came out to be just under $45 per person for seven handrolls and two appetizers, which I thought was a great price, considering we were also in the Arts District as well.