In the obsessive, sometimes fanatical world of sushi, it’s easy to overlook hand rolls: rustic, simple, even portable, they lack the
elegance of sashimi or nigiri. But that’s their charm. Hand rolls are blissfully casual yet thoroughly traditional cones of nori or soy paper that can be loaded with virtually any of your favorite sushi.
Temakira in Costa Mesa is a temple to the hand roll. This high-gloss restaurant is all about fast-casual, order-at-the-counter sushi consumption. Prepared rolls are designed for maximum flavor, such as the Calientail (yellowtail slicked with chile sauce and tempered with creamy wedges of avocado and crisp spears of cucumber), at right, or the Zesty Miso (salmon, an umami-rich dollop of miso, rings of green onion, briny tobiko, daikon sprouts, and cucumber). But perhaps the biggest joy is that you can build your own roll, a statistically delicious matrix of four types of fish and 10 fillings that keeps each visit interesting.
Among the lunching hordes at nearby Mitsubishi, Vans, and Yamaha, Sushi World’s Baked Blue Crab Hand Roll has become a cult classic. This unassuming place with an even more unassuming name seems to host as many business meetings as curious Target shoppers. But the blue crab roll is worth a visit. Unlike other iterations in which the crab is dressed as if it were in a salad, here it’s baked into a kind of miniature crab cake, slicked with a bit of garlic aioli, and wrapped in ivory soy paper flecked with toasted sesame seeds.
Nana San is for the traditionalist. The venerable sushi bar isn’t one for gimmicks—buttery slices of sashimi and artful pieces of nigiri reign here. But hand rolls are treated with equal grace. The Salmon Skin Roll is nearly habit-forming, with a bundle of julienned vegetables balancing the crunchy salmon skin that crackles as if right out of the fryer.
POKE has become an O.C. obsession. And Temakira’s poke salad is as good as any: ruby red cubes of tuna dressed with sesame and piled atop a bed of mixed greens. If you’re not tackling two or three hand rolls, this is what you want for lunch.
259 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa
10953 Meridian Drive, Cypress
3601 Jamboree Road, Newport Beach