Carla Meyer

Dining review: Wrap N’ Roll’s sushi burritos inspire a deeper look

It’s hard to bite into a sushi burrito at Wrap N’ Roll without wanting to tear it apart.

Not so much with criticism but with the chopsticks and plastic forks on hand at the midtown Sacramento fast-casual restaurant that serves sushi rolls writ large. (Wrap N’ Roll’s curious lack of plastic knives is another matter, but more on that later.)

Wrap N’ Roll Sushi Burrito stuffs so many ingredients into its wraps that individual flavors can be obscured. You taste just enough of the best ingredients – like buttery yellowtail sashimi – to want to know more about them, but in private, away from the influence of bedfellows like sunomono (cucumber salad) and guacamole. Thus, every sushi wrap I sampled at Wrap N’ Roll became a tear-down project.

Owner Mymy Nguyen, riding a trend popularized by Los Angeles food trucks and the Bay Area chain Sushiritto, opened her first Wrap N’ Roll in 2013 in Elk Grove. She followed last year with the midtown Wrap N’ Roll, which shares the 1801 L St. building with Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates and the forthcoming restaurant Saddle Rock (née Capital Dime). A second Elk Grove location, which will be even more of-the-moment by offering Hawaiian poke, is the works.

Wrap N’ Roll, like Sushiritto, uses nori, the traditional seaweed sushi handroll cover, for its super-size rolls. (Soy wraps can be substituted, for an additional $1). Wrap N’ Roll, which serves wonton “nachos,” also shares some DNA with Sacramento fusion restaurant Tako Korean BBQ, though Tako uses tortillas for its burritos.

Nori can be salty or taste too strongly of the ocean, but the flavor of Wrap N’ Roll’s nori barely factors when considering the many-flavored bulk it surrounds. Sushi-burrito ingredients run from sashimi and/or cooked fish to tempura shrimp and vegetables to spicy mayonnaises and sunomono, with that last ingredient emerging as the giant killer of the Asian-fusion wrap world. The cucumber salad’s sweet-bright vinegar taste emerges as the only distinct flavor upon one’s first, mouth-stretching bite into Wrap N’ roll’s triple sashimi (salmon, tuna, yellowtail) wrap.

While in line at Wrap N’ Roll, I met a UC Davis medical student named Sam who swears by the triple sashimi wrap. The $10.95 item falls within the same price range as standard sushi rolls around town, but unlike those, Sam pointed out, it can serve as a meal. Sam and fellow budget-conscious friends in their 20s hit other Sacramento sushi spots when those places offer half-price deals, he said, but the fish is not as consistently fresh as at Wrap N’ Roll.

It was the very freshness that made me want dismantle the triple sashimi wrap, to isolate the yellowtail, which melted on the tongue. But texture also factored. A traditional burrito gives one plenty to chew on, from the flour tortilla to individual beans. The wraps I tried at Wrap N’ Roll (spicy tuna, yellowtail and grilled salmon, in addition to triple sashimi) offered too little textural variance. The fried eggroll skins included in a few of them interrupted the pillowy sameness only momentarily.

But tastes and textures come together beautifully in some of Wrap N’ Roll’s non-wrap dishes, starting with its “volcano” nachos. Wonton chips provide a crispy foundation for minced spicy tuna, which, bunched on chips, mimics refried beans. The nachos hold Sriracha and habanero mayonnaise along with the spicy tuna, yet the overall heat remains manageable enough for you to notice how freshly made the wonton chips taste. The guacamole was tasty as well, though not tasty enough to overcome my dismay that it was not wasabi. (Wrap N’ Roll does not offer wasabi, or fresh ginger, as sushi sides.)

The Tokyo fries deliver a more powerful punch of immediate heat, thanks to crushed red pepper, Sriracha sauce and jalapeño mayo. But ample amounts of cilantro, tobiko (fish roe) and crispy shoestring fries absorb some of the impact.

Wrap N’ Roll’s general flair for the fried culminates with its excellent stuffed jalapeños. Served five to an order, these $6.50 poppers, the cream-cheese filling of which includes spicy tuna, present as much of a deal as the $10.95 triple sashimi burrito – though they’re probably not the heart-smarter choice. The treat’s panko coating held up, consistency-wise, to the teriyaki sauce lining the bottom of the biodegradable to-go container in which it was served.

Most menu items at Wrap N’ Roll arrive in these containers, even if one dines in. Yet Wrap N’ Roll does not feel like a place that tries to push you out the door once you get your order. There’s seating in the sidewalk area out front and in a small dining room, the walls of which are covered by murals depicting Sacramento landmarks such as the Crest Theatre, Tower Bridge and the Capitol – in a slightly bubbly style reminiscent of R. Crumb and the Fat Albert cartoons.

The one-container-fits all approach no doubt helps Wrap N’ Roll keep prices reasonable. Perhaps cost-cutting is behind the absence of the plastic knife I needed for Wrap N’ Roll’s delicious Spam and fried-eggs combination box. And for my dignity.

A teriyaki sauce covers eggs that occupy that optimal zone between over easy and hard and, in turn, cover slabs of cooked, salty Spam. This flavor combination evokes breakfast-restaurant combo plates with ham, eggs, pancakes and maple syrup. That’s before one even gets to the (fluffy) rice and (by-the-numbers) seaweed salad.

The eggs and Spam cried out for cutting, but when I asked the counter person for a plastic knife, she said Wrap N’ Roll did not carry them. Nguyen later said there was not enough demand for them.

She might be right. Lacking a knife did not keep me from tearing into the Spam and eggs as inelegantly as I had the sushi burritos. But this time purely for enjoyment and not examination.

WRAP N’ ROLL SUSHI BURRITO

1801 L St., Sacramento, www.wrapnrollsushiburrito.com, 916-476-6731

  • Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Sunday
  • Beverage options: Bottled Lagunitas IPA and Angry Orchard cider. Jarritos bottled sodas. Fountain sodas.
  • Vegetarian friendly: Yes. There is a tofu sushi burrito.
  • Gluten-free options: No
  • Noise level: Moderate
  • Ambiance: The small dining room of this counter restaurant is plain, but the walls, filled with painted images of Sacramento landmarks, are colorful.

Overall 1/2

The restaurant’s sushi burritos are full of lively, fresh individual ingredients but disappoint as a whole. Other dishes are better, and portions overall are big and prices reasonable.

Food 1/2

Everything tastes fresh, even the fried items. But the many flavors inside the stuffed sushi wraps (this restaurant’s reason for being) cancel themselves out, and there’s too little variance in texture. But some non-wrap dishes – such as the “volcano” nachos, Tokyo fries, Spam-and-eggs combination box and stuffed jalapeños – impress.

Service

Friendly, but not much of a factor. It’s a counter-service restaurant in which all dishes come in to-go containers.

Value

Sushi burritos contain ample servings of sashimi-grade fish and cost less than $11. Non-sushi bargains include the hearty Spam-and-eggs combination box ($8.25) and delicious stuffed jalapeños ($6.50).

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