Wednesday, May 2, 2012

R. Rice Sushi

Situated in a strip mall in Sandy Springs, R. Rice Wok. Grill. Sushi. is definitely outside of my normal dining hoods, but I was pleasantly surprised by its stylish digs and fresh, tasty sushi.

Master Sushi Chef Danny Chen has recently become the co-owner and head chef at R. Rice and has revamped the menu. Although Chinese, Chen was a natural fit for the sushi world as the son of a fisherman. He trained at NY's Yama (a restaurant I used to love when I worked right around the corner in my NYC days!), and is now here to save the day at R. Rice.

R. Rice has got a tough location on its hands. Tucked away with no street presence and plenty of nearby businesses, R. Rice strikes me like the kind of place that is crowded for lunch and struggling at dinner time. Given Chen has been brought in to revamp the restaurant, I suspect its initial months were indeed a challenge. Although I can't imagine that Sandy Springers are the biggest consumers of sushi in the metro area, the quality of the food is certainly high enough to merit being locals' go-to spot for sushi.

We stuck with sushi-focused dishes, but their menu also includes curries, traditional American-Chinese dishes (think Kung Pao Chicken), rice and noodles, and even Asian tacos.

Yellowtail jalapeno with a yuzu sauce is one of my favorite dishes from LA'a famed Katsu-ya, so I was pleased to find it on the menu. I could have done without the wasabi ketchup which was, well, too ketchupy for my taste, and just stuck with the perfect balance of citrusy sauce, spicy jalapeno and melt-in-your-mouth fish.

Sashimi avocado salad offered a vibrant mix of tuna, yellowtail, salmon and avocado with a spicy chili sauce. Both the yellowtail with jalapeno and this dish were wonderfully light. We spoke with  owner Gary Lin who informed us that unlike many sushi joints that load people up on rice, their focus is on letting the fish flavors shine through. I agree that this held very true at R. Rice, with no shortage of actual fish.

I have long lamented that too many Atlanta sushi spots glop mayo based sauces all of their fish. Fortunately, although R. Rice is definitely of the new wave variety with lots of unusual options such as strawberry sauces and popular but not authentic ingredients like cream cheese, the restaurant also has plenty of goo-free options that put the focus on the fish.

The Hawks Roll, shrimp tempura topped with spicy tuna, layered with avocado, mango salsa and black caviar was the business. The contrast of hot/crispy with cool and smooth fish has long been one of my favorite texture and flavor combos. I don't like caviar so I was a bit concerned initially, but it was not an issue, the caviar has more visual impact than flavor. Other classics like tuna with avocado were light on the rice, and I managed to leaving feeling satisfied but not stuffed.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised. Lin was a charmer and the kind of guy you'd like to see succeed. If R. Rice were anywhere near my home or office, I'd happily work it into my weekly rotation. I seem to crave sushi at least once every 2 weeks or so and if it were in our 'hood R. Rice would definitely give our usual spot Zuma a run for its money.

Want to check it out for yourself? Post a comment here (and make sure I have a way to contact you) by Friday 5 pm to win a $25 gift certificate! I'll post the winner's name here on Friday.

R Rice Wok. Grill. Sushi. 
1140 Hammond Drive 
Sandy Springs, GA 30328

R Rice Wok, Grill, Sushi on Urbanspoon

*Full disclosure: Although my meal was comped, I always endeavor to offer my unbiased opinion of the experience!



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