Sushi roll with a twist: 3 places to enjoy

Forget traditional sushi for a while and let your hair down with these fun, funky rice rolls

1. Rollie Olie
1. Rollie Olie
23 Sep 2015

1. Rollie Olie

#02-05 THE STAR VISTA, 1 VISTA EXCHANGE GREEN, S138617. TEL: 6316-5710. Open daily 11am-10pm. Last orders 9.30pm. www.facebook.com/rollieoliesingapore

You can’t take a restaurant with a name like Rollie Olie seriously. Yet, we couldn’t help but enjoy the playful, hearty offerings at this California roll specialist. You'll be forgiven for thinking this is a hip juice bar or yoghurt stand, because the bright and cheery décor here has a sunshiny West Coast look to it. The vibe is young, trendy fast food joint — except you place your order at the counter and the staff serves you your freshly-made rolls in hip cardboard boxes while you try to find a seat in the slightly cramped space. It was opened four months ago at The Star Vista by Taiwanese-born graphic designer, Amy Chou, 45, and her husband, who owns a seafood distribution company. The pair spent several years working in the States, where they developed a love for California rolls, which Amy says are characteristically jumbo-sized and feature more cooked food, veg, rich sauces and garnishes than regular sushi. Fun fact: the California roll was purportedly created by a sushi chef in the "Little Tokyo" district in LA in the ’60s, which may explain why we’ve never seen a Cali roll on any of our trips to Japan.

ON THE MENU: Each roll of eight slices is good for a filling meal. And it’s huge: we had trouble cramming even one slice into our gob. It's not junk food either — these "gourmet fast food rolls" are super flavourful and made with fresh ingredients from the owners' seafood distribution company. Kinda healthy — if you skip the deep-fried ones and ignore the fact that most are heavily seasoned with flavoured mayo. They’re shaped with Japanese short-grain rice lightly tinged with vinegar. Apart from the nine signature rolls, there are also salads, rice bowls and fried appetisers.

1. Rollie Olie: K Pop ($12.95)
1. Rollie Olie: K Pop ($12.95)
23 Sep 2015

1. Rollie Olie: K Pop ($12.95)

Strewn with crunchy kimchi and cucumber, creamy avocado, mashed jicama (a kind of Mexican yam) and bits of spicy crab stick, this is delicious. Lovely contrast of textures underscored by a piquant zing. Our editor preferred the Sunkissed Salmon ($16.95), an umami combo of aburi fish, creamy wasabi mayo, crab stick, avocado, cucumber and tobiko. Her only grouse: the slightly stiff, overly chilled rice.

1. Rollie Olie: Tree Hugger ($12.95)
1. Rollie Olie: Tree Hugger ($12.95)
23 Sep 2015

1. Rollie Olie: Tree Hugger ($12.95)

A vegetarian “skinny roll” cloaked not with rice but translucent soybean wrapping (think a thin, fairly tasteless popiah skin, not wrinkly tau kee). It cradles asparagus tips, mashed sweet potato, cucumber, avocado, carrot, jicama, cabbage and lettuce, all dressed with a salty-sweet miso sauce. Yum, like a crunchy, less greasy popiah.

1. Rollie Olie: Poké Bowl ($11.95)
1. Rollie Olie: Poké Bowl ($11.95)
23 Sep 2015

1. Rollie Olie: Poké Bowl ($11.95)

While the Japanese have their chirashi, the Hawaiians have poké (say “poh-keh”), marinated raw tuna salad. Currently very popular in the US., we liken this rice bowl to the cai png version of chirashi. Roughly cut chunks of tuna and salmon heavily tossed in a sesame-scented, tangy, sweet, slightly peppery “secret” soy marinade, which coats the rice like gravy. Tobiko, sweet cubes of omelette, avocado and greens join the party. We loved this, but our editor would rather blow her carb count on the rolls here.

BOTTOM LINE: Mostly tasty and creative California-style rolls bursting with flavour — even if they’re not exactly cheap for a semi-fast food joint, especially if you get the seafood ones. Also, each roll is so massive you can’t order much for variety if you're dining in a small group.
 

2. Seoul Roll
2. Seoul Roll
23 Sep 2015

2. Seoul Roll

#B1-58 RAFFLES CITY SHOPPING CENTRE, 252 NORTH BRIDGE RD, S179103. TEL: 8685-7315. Open daily. Mon-Thu 8am-11pm; Fri-Sun 11am-11pm. Last orders at closing. www.seoulroll-sg.com

“These are not sushi rolls,” says feisty Korean graphic designer-turned-rice lady boss Stella Jung, 42, of her Seoul Rolls. “They are Kimbap, very popular as street food in Korea”. Literally meaning “seaweed rice,” the main difference, according to Stella, is that kimbap never includes raw fish, and are usually filled with fresh vegetables and punchy Korean pickles, among other stuff. Moreover, unlike sushi, Stella says the rice in kimbap is not seasoned with vinegar because the rolls are jammed with already briny salted vegetables and vinegary pickles. Instead, the grains are brushed with a bit of sesame oil before serving. From our experience, kimbap is also often bigger and more rustic than sushi. That being said, Singaporeans are clearly mad about Korean food, because it was pretty busy when we dropped by for lunch. Expect to wait about 15 minutes if the stall runs low on pre-made rolls and prepares a fresh one for you on the spot. The Korean short-grain rice in these rolls is softer, though thankfully not mushy, compared to the ones from the other two eateries in this feature. Size-wise, they’re a little smaller than Rollie Olie's Californian behemoths, but more substantial than Roll Out's three-bite morsels. Grab two for a complete meal.

ON THE MENU: Stella’s co-owner husband, a Korean chef who studied at The Culinary Institute of America and declined to be photographed, developed the nine rolls on offer — a mix of traditional Korean flavours and innovative ones like avocado and ikan bilis. Stella runs the day-to-day operations at this fortnight-old takeout stall at the basement of Raffles City.

2. Seoul Roll: Spicy Cuttlefish ($4.00)
2. Seoul Roll: Spicy Cuttlefish ($4.00)
23 Sep 2015

2. Seoul Roll: Spicy Cuttlefish ($4.00)

The sweet and spicy pickled cuttlefish boasts a subtly salty flavour and a pleasant chewiness. We only wish there were more of it in our roll, which otherwise didn't have very much going for it except rice, vegetables and a crisp coat of seaweed.

2. Seoul Roll: Anchovy And Nuts ($4)
2. Seoul Roll: Anchovy And Nuts ($4)
23 Sep 2015

2. Seoul Roll: Anchovy And Nuts ($4)

Why ikan bilis? Stella says she and her hubby sat down to think of things Singaporeans like to eat, and for some reason, settled on crispy anchovies. But we're not complaining. Crunchy fried ikan bilis, sliced almonds and sweet cream cheese pad up this unusual roll, which we like for its creamy, crunchy, sweet and savoury contrast. Our fave item here.

BOTTOM LINE: These veggie-laden rolls are healthy and fairly filling, but a bit Seoul-less compared to the feisty Korean grub we’re used to. Also, they lose bite if left to sit out for a while (bulk batches are prepared twice daily and only made to order once supplies run low).
 

3. Roll Out
3. Roll Out
23 Sep 2015

3. Roll Out

#B1-K11 TAMPINES MALL, 4 TAMPINES CENTRAL 5, S529510. Open daily 10.30am-10pm. Last orders at closing. www.facebook.com/rolloutsg

This sushi stall at the hectic food basement of Tampines Mall does cute mini ‘reverse’ sushi rolls. Which means most of the main ingredients are draped on the rice outside, while the nori-lined inside is filled with more seafood and meat, plus greens like cucumbers and lettuce. The three-month-old outlet is the brainchild of three couples: pilot Eric Chong, 39 and flight attendant Denise Lim, 27 (pictured); pilot Jonathan Seng, 42, and Sharon Kaur, 34, who's between jobs; plus two silent partners. For a takeaway stand, the set-up is super chic: the petite and colourful rolls sit in a glass case almost like dainty éclairs.

ON THE MENU: There’s a hit-or-miss range of locally-inspired and more generic flavour combinations here, with new offerings introduced every few weeks or so. Ten options are on display at any one time. The rather skinny rice rolls are crafted with Japanese short-grain rice, and are nicely chewy. Conveniently wrapped in plastic, each one is meant to be eaten whole, like a mini sushi burrito. But if you ask nicely, the rolls can be sliced up (each roll makes 4 slices) for sharing. Just as with Seoul Roll, the pre-assembled offerings here, which are made several times daily, tend to get a bit soggy if left out for too long. For drinks, the roasty cold-brewed Genmaicha ($2.50 for per bottle) is refreshing.

3. Roll Out: The Electric Una ($5.90)
3. Roll Out: The Electric Una ($5.90)
23 Sep 2015

3. Roll Out: The Electric Una ($5.90)

A standard unagi roll with pieces of tender grilled eel perched atop a rice roll filled with omelette and crisp greens, then glazed with sweet soy-based kabayaki sauce. Pleasant, if nothing to swoon over.

3. Roll Out: The Hainanese ($4.90)
3. Roll Out: The Hainanese ($4.90)
23 Sep 2015

3. Roll Out: The Hainanese ($4.90)

Sushi rice is cooked in house-made chicken stock and then rolled up with lettuce, two pieces of poached chicken breast and a smear of spicy ginger sauce. The concoction is then sprinkled with crispy bits of roasted garlic. It’s surprisingly good. The chook is soft and the rice has a lovely garlicky perfume. Reminiscent of stuffed chicken rice balls.

BOTTOM LINE: Decent, if sometimes generic offerings. And the prices add up since you'll need at least two or three of these babies to fill up your belly. Still, they look adorable and make for a nice and neat takeaway option.
 

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