A new sushi restaurant devoted entirely to handrolls — sort of like the open-faced-sandwich version of a maki roll — has opened in the prominent former AL's Deli/Yuzuki space at 18th and Guerrero, and it's bound to be a big hit.
We thought that Handroll Project would be opening last fall, but like so many things, the usual SF-related delays with opening a business were compounded by a new pandemic wave, and the place just quietly opened in the last week or so. A project of Michelin-starred Ju-Ni chef Geoffrey Lee and partner Tan Truong, Handroll Project ostensibly allows sushi-lovers the chance to feast on the high-quality fish and other ingredients used by Ju-Ni, but in a much more affordable, casual setting.
The value proposition comes because there are only 10 handroll options on a given night, and they're aiming for volume. These rustic creations are less rolls than they are folded pieces of seaweed served in custom wooden canoe-things, topped with rice, fish or urchin or roe, and then dressed with some accompaniments — without the fussiness of a neatly rolled and sliced maki roll. (Regular rolls are called maki or makizushi, and handrolls — which are traditionally served in a cone shape but not here — are called temaki, and are meant to be eaten by hand.)
Options last week included tuna and sesame, spicy tuna, spicy kani (imitation crab), smoked hamachi, uni, creamy scallop with avocado, toro takuan, chef's poke with salmon roe, and A5 Wagyu. There is also a combination of salmon roe (ikura) topped with grated ankimo (dried monkfish liver) that is based on the beloved signature dish at Ju-Ni.
Diners can order the rolls a la carte, or you can order five rolls for $35, seven rolls for $54, or all 10 available rolls for $95. The latter option includes three nightly special rolls that will be available for dine-in only when Handroll Project begins doing takeout.
There are also three appetizers currently on offer: miso soup, cucumber salad, and albacore tuna tataki. And the beverage list is equally concise, with just two wines, three beers, and three sakes currently available.
"The idea here is to come in and get a quick bite," Truong tells Eater, trying to distinguish this from the omakase experiences that the team is used to serving at Ju-Ni.
Handroll Project currently is waitlist only, with no reservations for now, and it's open Wednesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. There are just 16 seats at two counters, and it's not hard to imagine that on the bustling corner of 18th and Guerrero, across the street from the Tartine Bakery line, there will soon be a constant Handroll Project line at dinnertime — at least until they decide to do reservations.
We'll update you once takeout becomes available, for Dolores Park or other purposes.
Handroll Project - 598 Guerrero Street - Open Wednesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. - No reservations
Photo via Handroll Project/Instagram