The team behind Michelin-starred Ju-Ni recently opened their first casual concept in San Francisco’s Mission District. Handroll Project is the city’s first-ever hand roll sushi bar and the first from a Michelin-starred team in the country. This unique restaurant is the first casual concept and third restaurant from Executive Chef Geoffrey Lee and Partner Tan Truong.
This Mission District hotspot immediately gained traction, with lines forming up to an hour before opening. They don’t take reservations, so earlier the better. The good news is the rolls come out fast and as fresh as can be.
The features a menu of 10 different types of hand rolls, as well as specials and small plates, and a small, curated list of wine, sake, Japanese beers, and non-alcoholic beverages. Each hand roll is made-to-order from one of only two hand roll makers in the small restaurant.
Check out my full dining experience here.
The menu will features the following rolls: Salmon & Sesame with ikura, bonita flakes; Spicy Tuna with shiso, shichimi aioli, cucumber, garlic; Spicy Kani with tobiko, negi, miso aioli; Smoked Hamachi with shiso and negi; Chef’s Poke Hand Roll with chef’s choice poke, ikura; Creamy Scallop with tobiko, negi, spicy miso aioli, avocado; and Toro Takuan wth fatty tuna, pickled radish, shiso, negi. The hand rolls come in sets of five, seven, and ten.
Chef Lee’s special rolls include the A5 Wagyu with garlic chips, shiso, chives; Smoked Uni & Ikura with smoked hokkaido uni, ikura; and Ikura & Ankimo with salmon roe, monkfish liver pate.
As with Ju-Ni and Hina Yakitori, Chef Lee uses only the highest-quality ingredients to craft the menu. The Handroll team utilizes select purveyors such as Sakasyu, which imports items including fish, and nori directly from Tsukiji, making it one of the only restaurants in the country using their product for nori.
We chatted with the Handroll team about the restaurant concept, menu highlights and more. Here’s what they had to say.
You guys own Hina Yakitori and Michelin-starred Ju-Ni, what was the catalyst in deciding to open up a more casual concept? In comparison to your other restaurants, what are the vibes and ambiance here expected to be?
The Covid Pandemic forced us to make a pivot with our business model and initiate a takeout program. We created a chirashi bowl that gained a lot of popularity. We leveraged this momentum to open Handroll Project, a more casual and approachable concept in comparison to Hina and jū-ni.
This is the first hand roll sushi bar in San Francisco and the first from a Michelin-starred team in the country. How did you guys decide to open this type of concept up? Why is it so unique?
Prior to opening jū-ni, Tan and I discussed opening a variety of business concepts around sushi. A handroll restaurant was one of the concepts we played with, but we ultimately went with a fine dining concept that turned into jū-ni.
After dinner service at jū-ni we would enjoy handrolls as a post-service dinner. They were quick and delicious. We utilized the same products, techniques and approach we implement to create these “Michelin Star” flavors.
What are the highlights and must-tries?
The approach is the same I did with the jū-ni menu. To have different experiences with each handroll. Different flavors and textures. Nothing to overwhelm the qualities of each fish, but to accentuate. Some of my favorites is the spicy tuna, the creamy scallop, and the smoked hokkaido uni w/ ikura.
Some must tries include the Ikura w/ super frozen ankimo. It is a nod to our signature dish at jū-ni; Albacore Tataki, it is light with bright, savory flavors and a great way to begin before enjoying the handrolls; our Saikyo Miso Soup. It is the same soup we end our omakase meals with at jū-ni. We use a special miso called Saikyo Miso from Kyoto.
Where are you sourcing your ingredients from? Particularly your fish and nori?
The nori is quite special. Handroll Project & jū-ni are 2 of 4 in the Bay Area who is sourcing this from Toyosu Market in Tokyo. On one of my last trips to Tokyo, my fish suppliers took me to this boutique nori shop. I could immediately taste the difference. It is almost 3x what we would normally get here in the states, but the quality is easily 10x.
Talk about the beverage program. What went in to curating what you have on your bar menu?
Our General Manager Alice Lee curated the beverage program. The concept is to have complimentary wine, sake and beer to the handrolls of course. California allows you to order alcohol to go with your food. We selected specific sizes for light pairings when we get our to-go program going.