Sogo Roll Bar recently opened in Los Feliz, where McConnell's Ice Cream used to reside. The restaurant serves unique and refined hand rolls to diners under the direction of chef Kiminobu Saito (Sushi Note), who brings quick-service and elevated Japanese cuisine to the neighborhood. The stylishly designed Sogo feels light, bright, and homey with its minimal Japanese motifs, modern fixtures, and its beautiful oak wood grain bar.
Sogo joins a growing list of hand roll establishments in Los Angeles, including KazuNori, HRB (The Hand Roll Bar Experience), and Seaweed in Koreatown. In addition to Mr. Saito, S?go is a collaborative effort between Andy Paxson, David Gibbs, Aya Makino and partners, Dustin Lancaster and Sarah Dietz of Bar Covell and Hotel Covell.
For college students not familiar with eating hand rolls, it's a different experience than eating sushi. Whereas sushi rolls (aka Maki in Japanese) are cut, eaten with chopsticks, and can be shared, hand rolls (aka Temaki) are not. Most traditional sushi restaurant chefs prepare hand rolls into cone-shaped rolls by using seaweed filled with rice, a type of fish, and vegetables. However, at a hand roll restaurant, hand rolls are made in a cylindrical or tubular shape and don't contain vegetables. These types of hand rolls are approximately 4" in length and eaten immediately.
The design of a hand roll restaurant is set up more like a bar. There are no tables, and space is limited. All exchanges between diners and chefs take place at the bar, where the chef makes and passes out hand rolls either on a mat or on a plate. This exchange at Sogo (which means "mutual" in Japanese) takes on more significance as the chef places the hand roll directly into the diner's hand, which subtlely represents a give-and-take between the Sogo hand roller and diner.
Sogo serves a variety of four Hand Roll Menus that cost between $14.00 (3 hand rolls) to $28.00 (6 hand rolls). The rolls are served individually, not as a full order. So, don't expect to get six rolls all at once. There are hand rolls served à la carte as well. The hand roll, when served, needs to be consumed right away, so the seaweed doesn't get soggy from its contents. In my experience eating at other hand roll establishments, when biting into the roll, its contents can get pushed out through the bottom of the roll. However, at Sogo, the hand rollers use a "signature flap" at one end of the roll, which keeps the ingredients in place while the diner consumes it.
All Sogo Menus begin with the lightest hand roll and continue through its fullest counterpart. Each menu starts with the Snapper hand roll, a super clean fish, often overlooked on restaurant menus. At Sogo, the Snapper is diced and made with Yuzu-it, a traditional Japanese seasoning made with Yuzu citrus.
The Sogo 6 Hand Roll Menu selection is more expansive and highlights the restaurant's unique hand rolls such as the Gravlax hand roll, a mix of vodka-cured diced salmon, Crème Fraiche, and wasabi stem; the Scallop hand roll prepared with Kewpie Mayo and smelt egg. And, the Kari Kari hand roll with diced albacore marinated with brandy and ponzu with crispy onions mixed in. Along with its hand rolls, Sogo serves limited Sashimi selections and wonderful wasabi made from fresh wasabi root.
I highly recommend students visit Sogo Roll Bar to experience its hand rolls, which have been a part of Japanese cooking for many years. The restaurant is an excellent addition to this stretch of Hollywood Boulevard that includes HomeState, Kismet, Kismet Rotisserie, Covell, Umami Burger, and Go Get Em Tiger.
S?go Roll Bar is located at 4634 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 90027. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 AM to 9 PM. Phone: (323) 741-0088. For more information, visit sogorollbar.com.