Michael Horne

Rice N Roll Opens on N. Farwell Ave.

The small, simply designed place has some 150 offerings on its menu, including a number of Sushi items.

By - Feb 13th, 2015 04:48 pm
Inside Rice N Roll. Photo by Michael Horne.

Inside Rice N Roll. Photo by Michael Horne.

Rice N Roll, a Japanese / Thai fusion restaurant at 1952 N. Farwell Ave., had its “pre-opening” on Thursday,  just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend.

As reported by Heather Meuret in Urban Milwaukee Dial last October, the restaurant aims to be “innovative and fun,” according to executive chefs and owners, Tony Koraneekit and J.J. Lertsinsongserm. The cousins have extensive restaurant experience in family operations in New York and Chicago. They have been in Milwaukee for under a year.

A visit to the spot found it to be simple and attractive. The owners didn’t feel a need to hide the exposed ceiling of the 1,200 square foot corner of the “Shoppes on Farwell,” a three-unit commercial building constructed in 2005. Instead, an open fretwork above the sushi bar located on the east wall provides enough vertical interest to divert the eye, as do well-spaced hanging lamps centered above the eight or so two-tops that line the perimeter of the place. Bench seating is available in three spots on the north wall, flanked by staggered, vertical pine ship-lap board paneling.

Two Thai prints above the cash register at the entrance provide the only hint of old Siam in the decor (where’s the portrait of King Bhumibol Adulyadej?); the remainder is spare and much more reminiscent of the Japanese tradition.

The walls are mostly painted a muted pumpkin orange shade, which goes well with the blonde wood accents. The simple projecting sign on the outside of the building is likewise spare in details, simply consisting of a vertical “RICE N ROLL,” with the words in black, and the “N” in red on a vertical knotty pine background. The sign is lit from below, quite effectively.

A sign above the entrance door repeats the motif, this time with the boards oriented horizontally. Altogether the place is spare and clean, and Milwaukeeans will appreciate the relative economy involved in outfitting the establishment, which is reflected in the menu prices.

While everything appears new, the shiniest element in the room, and appropriately so, is the sushi bar where about 8 or 9 of you can squeeze in on low stools and watch the action. A television screen in the corner will keep some patrons occupied while not watching the manipulation of raw fish. I opted for the salmon rolls (6 for $5) and found them to be buttery fresh.

An “Open” sign above the door is the only touch of neon in the place thus far. We’ll see what happens when they get the beer license here, for the distributors will covet the ample window space. (The partners have also applied for a Class “C” wine license.)

As for now, the beverages are strictly soft drinks. The first one listed on the menu, somewhat incongruously, is “milk.” But then again, you know how those college kids like to chug the milk jug.

Fans of bubbly water will be happy to have a choice of Perrier or Pellegrino.

Hidden in the back, out of view, is the non-sushi kitchen, where tasty delights such as chicken pot stickers (steamed or fried) are available at 6 for five bucks. The skins of the pot stickers were fresh and tender, and the filling, although somewhat sparse, was quite elegant.

If you ordered one of every item on the menu, and had them all served at once, there would not be enough room in the restaurant to hold all the plates.

There are 100 items listed on the Japanese side of the menu, not counting the 19 varieties of Sushi and Sashimi available a la carte ($3.25 each).

The Thai side of the menu makes do with half as many items, concentrating on noodle, rice and curry dishes, as does the cuisine itself. (Somehow, Caribbean Fried Rice [$11] slipped in amongst its Asian counterparts.)

Brown Rice is an option for most dishes, although Jasmine Rice is the standard. What? You want Black Rice with your Sushi? Come up with an extra $1.50 and its yours.

If you’ve got a thing for Glass Noodles (Woonsen) in your Pad Thai instead of the traditional thin rice noodles, those, too, are available for an extra dollar. For an extra $200 you could probably hire a UWM mathematics professor to dine with you and calculate the number of options and permutations the restaurant offers.

Such variety of choices can usually only exist in a restaurant that makes things from scratch, which appears to be the case here. Also, such complexity in a menu requires skilled hands in the kitchens from the very start, lest utter confusion reign.

The restaurant offers online ordering along with carry out and bicycle delivery by Flavor Cycle. The restaurant plans to offer half-price Sushi during happy hours (“coming soon”).

From all appearances Rice N Roll is ready to Rock and Roll.

Fun Fact: The restaurant space, new as it is, is the third to operate in the location. The first tenant was Sobelman’s Tallgrass Grill, which focused on a simple menu of high-end burgers. For whatever reason, including perhaps consistency and a high price-point, the concept did not take off. After a period of vacancy, the place became The House of Corned Beef, specializing in Corned Beef and Italian Pizza. Well, that was just plain silly.

Rice N Roll Gallery

0 thoughts on “Dining: Rice N Roll Opens on N. Farwell Ave.”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Actually I think its the fourth restaurant at that location, Patty Burger predated Sobelman’s.

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is actually the fourth restaurant at that site. Before the Tallgrass Grill, the space was used for a different burger joint. I believe it was called Patty Burger.

  3. Anonymous says:

    David & Hereiam are correct; Patty Burger predated Sobelman’s. I hope these operators have better luck. I also hope they attract a car-free clientele, because the area can’t absorb many more cars or any more idiots.

  4. Anonymous says:

    We ate here on Saturday night and loved it!! food was great- we split the Dragon roll and ordered several pieces of shashimi which was incredibly tasty. cant wait to go back when they have wine although the hot was pretty good, too.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Can’t wait to try this new restaurant in my neighborhood. Thank you for illuminating the menu and telling us about Rice N Roll’s “spare and clean” environment!

  6. Anonymous says:

    We used GrubHub and ordered from here and it was really, really good – and I’ll admit I was skeptical just given the history of restaurants that were in the location and their failure to succeed. I had the coconut milk soup (Tom Kha?) and spicy peanutty curry and my boyfriend had the pad thai and he said it was probably the best he’d ever had – the spice was perfect, according to him. We will definitely eat here again.

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