Rice N Roll, one of the East Side’s most popular restaurants, is celebrating its third anniversary. In observance of the milestone, it will release a brand new menu beginning Tuesday, March 13.
At the heart of Rice N Roll’s success is its approach to both sushi and Thai cuisine, which is based on family recipes, many gleaned from co-owner JJ Lert’s mother, who lives in Bangkok, Thailand. Even the sushi, much of which is created by co-owner Tony Kora, relies upon inspiration from Thai ingredients as well as American flavor profiles to create its unique rolls.
"We use ingredients like KwongHung Seng sweet Thai soy sauce," says Kora, "Which is made by a friend of our family. In some cases, the sauce is combined with other ingredients, like pickled jalapeno peppers, to create sauces that accompany sushi options.
We were fortunate enough to get a peek – and a taste – of some of the new menu items, a number of which were inspired by street foods readily found in many parts of Thailand.
Among new appetizers, guests will find ceviche, which can be made with guests’ choice of salmon, tuna, yellowtail or white tuna. It’s served with a housemade sauce featuring bright acidic lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and cilantro ($7.95). And it’s presented beautifully with tiny edible flowers as garnish.
The sauce, notes Kora, is based on a traditional Thai dipping sauce which is used primarily for seafood. It’s umami-rich flavor is sweet, salty and garlicky with a subtle heat.
The ceviche will also be featured on the new gluten-free menu which showcases appetizers, salads, sushi rolls and a variety of entrees including the popular pad Thai, basil fried rice and more. The menu has been made largely possible by the work of Lert, who recreated a variety of Rice N Roll specialties and sauces with gluten-free ingredients.
Among other new offerings is Rolling Salmon featuring salmon, cucumber, asparagus, masago and spicy mayo ($10.95, GF); a spicy sashimi salad featuring assorted fish, greens, cherry tomatoes and a spicy soy dressing ($12.95); and chefs’ special appetizers including "Dou Pizzaria" featuring roti with spicy tuna, guacamole, masago, kani, furikake, unagi sauce and spicy mayo ($12.95).
The restaurant's current special menu, which started the end of February, also features a Thai twist on Chinese pork buns featuring Thai-style skin-on braised pork belly (incorporating warming spices like star anise, five spice powder and cinnamon), spring mix and sweet honey roasted peanut sauce.
Among the new signature maki offerings is "Dancing on the Moon" a rainbow of flavors featuring fresh snow crab mixed with miso and mayo, cucumber, avocado and octopus wrapped in nori and topped with salmon, tuna, unagi sauce and fried onion.
Kora says that, along with new sushi offerings, Rice N Roll will also showcase a variety of new plating styles using new dishware, custom wooden sushi platters (like the one shown above), slate boards and rustic wooden platters.
Those presentations will be used in conjunction with a variety of new rolls including the East Side, which will feature yellowtail, cilantro, avocado, spicy sauce topped tuna, spicy garlic mayo and microgreens ($15.95) while the Bangkok Dangerous will showcase spicy shrimp, avocado, masago, scallion and eel sauce with a topping of eel and avocado ($12.95).
A Milwaukee roll will boast shrimp tempura, avocado, cream cheese, cilantro and Sriracha topped with smoked salmon, red tobiko, scallion, spicy mayo and unagi sauce ($13.95). And the Munchie Munchie will include crab tempura, masago, cucumber and avocado topped with seared salmon, unagi sauce, miso mayo and roasted almonds ($12.95).
There will also be a new vegetable maki called Green City which features broccoli and sweet potato tempura, grilled asparagus and cucumber topped with avocado, wasabi mayo and sweet Thai soy sauce ($10.50).
Rice N Roll will also be introducing two maki which will not contain rice. Instead, the rolls will be wrapped in soy paper or rice paper, an ingredient commonly used for fresh Thai spring rolls.
The first is the beautiful gluten-free maki called Sexy Winter which features shiitake mushrooms, pshinko (pickled radish), avocado and spring mix wrapped with rice paper and topped with salmon, tuna, hamachi, shrimp and crab ($15.95).
Another paper roll will be the Old Town with spicy tuna, seared salmon, ponzu, cilantro, green onion and masago wrapped in soy paper ($14.95, GF).
New entrees will include honey roasted duck, featuring duck that’s been put through a two-day preparation that includes marination in honey, soy and sesame oil and a cooking process during which the duck is first steamed and then roasted, creating flavorful meat with a unique texture. It’s served with rice, steamed bok choy and Chinese broccoli ($17).
Crabmeat fried rice will be comprised of flavorful fried rice with garlic and green onions that’s wrapped in a banana leaf and topped with a generous helping of fresh lump crab meat ($16.95).
There will also be Thai Peanut Sauce with bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, onions, scallions and peanuts ($13.95) as well as Weeping Tiger, a Thai-style grilled steak served with mixed vegetables and housemade spicy sauce ($16). Tempura Udon Soup will feature a rich broth with chashu pork, tempura shrimp, Japanese fish cakes, bok choy, nori and green onions along with udon noodles ($14.95).
Beginning this week, Rice N Roll will also be closed on Mondays, giving staff a welcome reprieve from their former seven-day work week. The new hours will be Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday from 12:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.