Rice N Roll has variety of Asian fareReview
Jul 19, 2012 (Tampa Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
As the population in the Lutz area has grown, so has the selection of restaurants. It's been a bit hit or miss, as any Lutz resident will tell you, but Rice N Roll seems to have weathered the recession and the critics to become something of a staple in the area.
It's easy to see how. Its menu offers a solid sampling from various Asian cuisines, from Pad Thai to Pu-Pu Platters.
Opening in 2010, Rice N Roll took over the spot once held by China Fuji, tucked into a Publix shopping center north of Van Dyke Road and North Dale Mabry. The interior is modern with clean lines and a combination of light wood tables and chairs and taupe leather booths. Mirrors engraved with Mt. Fuji and a geisha serve as a backdrop for the sushi bar, and a bright koi pond mural covers the ceiling for a whimsical flair.
Unlike almost every casual restaurant I've visited in recent years, Rice N Roll thankfully did not have a television blaring, instead offering a quiet, restful environment.
While the decor emphasizes Japan, the extensive menu covers most of Asia. Thai curries and Crispy Duck are offered alongside an extensive sushi menu as well as standard Chinese takeout fare of fried rice and noodles.
It was difficult to choose among the more than 20 appetizers, including a range of tasty-sounding treats that included dumplings, French fries and tempura, so we opted for the kitschy Pu-Pu Platter. It included crispy fried chicken wings, two standard fried wontons, a couple of egg rolls that tasted pre-made and frozen, surprisingly tender beef on wooden skewers, spare ribs coated in a thick sweet sauce and tempura shrimp.
Although the presentation with the fake coal fire and the large assortment can be fun for a large group, I recommend the tempura shrimp. Perfectly fried without being greasy, it had a slightly sweet, light and airy batter that coated firm, fresh shrimp.
For entrees, the Chicken Pad Thai was an ample serving with a nice balance of noodles and chicken to sprouts and nuts, all cooked to the spice-level requested. Although there's no children's menu, this dish, plain lo mein or fried rice should work for most kids.
For more adventurous palates, the chef's specialty of Sea Scallops and Shrimp stir fries the seafood with snow peas, baby corn and scallions in a green curry or garlic sauce. Chock-full of seafood and served with steamed rice, it easily fed two.
Although I'm usually skeptical of the sushi served in restaurants that feature such an extensive menu from so many regions, I was pleasantly surprised by the offerings at Rice N Roll. They have a weekday happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. that features a selection of $1 sushi, $3 rolls and drink specials.
We enjoyed the Tampa roll, featuring tempura white fish with avocado and spicy mayo. The Spicy Tuna Roll was solid but not spectacular, but the Amigo roll brought a burst of wonderful flavors with its combination of yellowtail, scallion, jalapeno and fresh cilantro. All were beautifully plated.
With its relaxing atmosphere and solid delivery on most dishes, visitors can forgive some of the culinary near misses. Rice N Roll deserves its reputation as a solid choice for those seeking a variety of popular Asian fare.
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