ROL HAND ROLL BAR
ADDRESS: 7862 Warner Avenue, Huntington Beach, CA 92647
This past weekend, I headed down to the Huntington Beach area to meet up with my friends Angel and Julie, who had been spending a few days down in that area. We had talked about Japanese handroll restaurants in the past, but they had not yet been to one. That changed when we decided to give ROL Hand Roll Bar a try.
I have TikTok to thank for finding out about this place, since I’m pretty sure I had seen a video of it not long after they first opened. Almost all 18 seats of the handroll bar were occupied when we first arrived, so this place was still popular, even on a holiday weekend. In addition to the bar seating, there are also 4-top and 2-top tables in the other half of the dining area, if sitting up at the bar isn’t your thing.
There are certainly no shortage of handroll types available to try, ranging across various fish and shellfish. But if choosing à la carte is too overwhelming, you can opt for their set menus of five, six, or seven rolls. As a first-timer, going the set menu route is a great way to get a sample of the various handrolls to gauge which ones you like and don’t like. Then, on a future visit, you can construct your own set by picking and choosing which ones you enjoyed the most, along with new ones to try.
I decided to go for the six-set handroll menu, which features salmon, spicy tuna crunch, scallop, albacore, spicy crab, and toro. I tacked on an additional spicy lobster handroll as well, since that also caught my attention. Our waiter also recommended trying the Crispy Rice Tartare appetizer, which was a small block of crispy rice with spicy tuna on top; we decided to go for that too. (It helped that the couple sitting next to us ordered it as well, and it looked really good.)
ROL is definitely in direct competition with places like Kazunori or Yunomi Handroll, but I feel like it leans more towards Yunomi in terms of similarity. My experience at Kazunori (I went to the one in the Wilshire neighborhood) was that it was just purely handrolls and that was it. At Yunomi, there are also appetizers to choose from that you can help to supplement your meal.
The handroll chef got immediately to work after we put in our order, with the first handrolls coming out for all three of us within a minute or two. Salmon was first up, and I thought that the flavor of the fish really came through, complemented by the light flavor of the toasted sesame seeds that were sprinkled within the handroll as well. The Spicy Tuna Crunch was next, with fried onions providing that crunch factor. I thought that it was not only a good flavor combination between the two but also a good texture contrast as well.
Scallop came out next, with the pieces chopped up and tossed in a sauce that had salmon roe in there, with a sprinkle of chopped chives before the handroll was wrapped. Of all seven of the handrolls I had, this one, for me, was the one that stood out the least. I wasn’t able to get much of the flavor from the scallop, which I think got masked by the sauce. Moving on to number four was the Albacore. This one was in a chopped fish consistency, but I thought that the seared tuna flavor did come through slightly.
It was the Spicy Crab that was next, and I thought that the crab meat tossed with some spicy mayo and black pepper was a pretty nice combination with the umami hit from the seaweed. The Toro was the last one from the set menu, and I think it’s definitely a good finisher for the set. The richness from the fatty tuna hits just right with each bite. If you pair it with the Yuzu Kosho sauce (Japanese paste made from yuzu, chiles, and salt), it’s perfect bite-after-bite. As for my bonus Spicy Lobster handroll, it was a tough act to follow after the Toro. I could definitely get some of the hints of the lobster flavor, along with the spicy mayo, but I don’t think it stood out enough for me that I’d order it again.
The Crispy Rice Tartare appetizer, which arrived in between handrolls #2 and #3, ended up being a really solid choice. Each piece could probably be taken in two bites, one if you’re feeling up for the challenge. I really liked it because it combined a variety of different flavors as well as had both temperature and texture contrast. You got the sweet, savory, umami, and spicy flavors from all the different components, the hot crispy rice mixed with the chilled spicy tuna, and then the soft consistency of the tuna along with the crunch from the crispy rice. All in all, definitely a must-get appetizer for sure.
Of the seven different handrolls I tried, I think that my top three were the Toro, Salmon, and Spicy Tuna Crunch, in that order. Those three had the flavor of the fish featured the most prominently with each bite. The remaining four I thought were good, but just not as memorable as the other three mentioned. From a décor perspective, I did enjoy the modern feel to the entire bar area, along with the ample natural lighting from outside that was able to complement the interior lighting scheme as well. I will say that I think that Yunomi still edges out ROL as my favorite handroll bar in the LA area, but it’s a pretty close second. If I find myself down in the Huntington Beach area and I have a craving for Japanese handrolls, I know just the place to go.
Let’s now take a look at the ROL Hand Roll Bar Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Crispy Rice Tartare **
Small blocks of crispy rice topped with spicy tuna. Garnished with eel sauce, sesame seeds, and chives.
** Salmon Handroll **
Diced salmon, wrapped with seaweed.
** Spicy Tuna Crunch Handroll **
Spicy tuna with crispy fried onions, wrapped in seaweed.
** Scallop Handroll **
Diced scallops, tossed in a house sauce with salmon roe, garnished with chives, wrapped in seaweed.
** Albacore Handroll **
Chopped albacore, wrapped in seaweed.
** Spicy Crab Handroll **
Crab meat tossed with spicy mayo, wrapped in seaweed.
** Toro Handroll **
Chopped fatty tuna, wrapped in seaweed.
** Spicy Lobster Handroll **
Lobster meat tossed with spicy mayo, wrapped in seaweed.
And finally, here are my rankings for ROL Hand Roll Bar:
Food: 4.75 / 5
The set menus definitely offer a good window into the various seafood flavors that are available with their handrolls. Even if you decided to construct your own set, it would be tough to go wrong with the different options they offer. The flavor of almost all the fish or shellfish within the handrolls that I tried definitely stood out on their own.
Atmosphere: 4.5 / 5
Even though sitting at the bar can feel a bit crowded at times, I feel like that is part of the experience. You see the handroll chef making your food right in front of you; you can immediately start eating it the moment the chef puts the handroll onto your serving plate. It doesn’t get any more direct than that. The modern décor and lighting scheme within the restaurant also helped provide a relaxed dining atmosphere as well.
Service: 4.5 / 5
Our waiter was really nice, and he came back around often to check in on us while we were at the handroll bar. He helped to provide a nice overview of the menu, and also gave us some good suggestions of things to try out. (Thanks to him, we tried both the Crispy Rice Tartare as well as the Yuzu Kosho sauce.) Our handroll chef was also pretty quick about getting us started with our food, too. He was able to help pace us through the entire menu, making the next handroll only after we had finished our previous one.
Price: 4.75 / 5
For the seven handrolls that I got and splitting the appetizer, it ended up being just under $45. That’s a pretty reasonable price, all things considered, when my Spicy Lobster handroll was on the higher side of the “regular” handroll section, priced at $8.50, when most of them are around $5 – $6.50. I thought the value was definitely there, and left the restaurant feeling pretty satisfied with the total amount of food.