Customize Your Sushi Roll at This Cute Neighborhood Coffee Bar
Up Roll Café opens in Kaka‘ako.
Photos: Natalie Schack
Sushi-and-coffee lovers, rejoice, for the day is finally yours. No longer must you slog from location to location just to assemble the necessary pieces for your lunch. No longer must you submit to a sushi meal sans coffee or a coffee sans sushi. Thanks to the new Up Roll Café, a downright charming little lunch-counter-style restaurant tucked into a corner of Kaka‘ako, you can have both.
Located on Halekauwila Street, this spot opened just last month. The interior has a lovely contemporary concept, complete with glossy wooden tables and benches, bright windows lining the walls and charcoal accents. Walking in, you’re treated to a yummy sight: the bowl-and-roll prep bar, in which ingredients that include cilantro, mint, avocado and pickled vegetables sit, ready to be added to your meal. A full coffee bar has all the usual must-haves, including cappuccinos, espressos and even a matcha latte, with iced or hot options. A few surprising additions we jumped on were the jasmine tea jelly (refreshing, unsweetened and expectedly jellylike) and the kinako latte, a creamy, nutty-tasting treat that’s everything you could wish (or imagine) a kinako latte to be.
The best part of this new joint (other than the décor)? The totally customizable aspect: Pick up a whiteboardlike clipboard near the door and, The Counter style, choose your dish, make it a roll or a bowl, pick the sauce and add any of the free toppings. Options on the limited menu include salmon, ‘ahi, inari tofu, pork miso, teriyaki chicken and aioli chicken, with brown or white rice and quinoa (for an extra charge) rounding out the starches. With six different sauces and almost as many toppings, the possibilities start to add up.
We tried the ‘ahi as a roll with brown rice and ginger dressing, the miso pork bowl with brown rice and spicy mayo, and the inari tofu roll with sesame dressing and quinoa. Maybe it was the ‘ahi and aburage whispering sweet things in our ears, but the roll style is the way to go. Wrapped tight, the ‘ahi roll came stuffed with fresh, firm raw fish, green onions, ginger and cucumber. We added avocado, because you should always add avocado, and it hit the spot.
The vegan inari tofu roll, with takuan and okra, is an unexpected twist on the aburage texture we all know and love from cone sushi. The roll was sweet, and the quinoa—while making for a slightly less secure roll foundation—was a fabulous accompaniment.
We chose the pork miso bowl with the creamy aioli. It was, honestly, a bit unappetizing-looking, with a generous, saucy heap of meat. The flavor was a bit too saucy for our tastes, with the thick sweetness suffocating our poor little lettuce and thwarting our efforts to seek out the crisp corn bits. Next time, we’d go for more forgiving sauce (perhaps lemon dressing) to give the already strong miso meatiness some space to breathe.
The takeaway? We’ll definitely be back. Our Uproll Café to-do list is getting longer by the day: Order a hot latte with some of that latte art we see all over Yelp. Taste the cream puffs. Get the ‘ahi roll again. Wait, no, get the tofu roll again. Get both. And—oh, right—try all the other rolls on the menu.
665 Halekauwila St., 475-0099. Visit the Facebook page here.