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First look: At Roll On, 'Keep Sushi Weird' would be an apropos motto

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

Nobody likes the word fusion anymore, but it's not a bad thing. It's taking inspiration from one place and inserting it into another, and when you're playing with sushi, the results can be surprising.

The newly opened Roll On Sushi Diner in a mixed-use complex at 5350 Burnet Road is an American-Asian hybrid that exceeds the expectations that the word "fusion" inspires.

It's taken eight years for the idea of a modern sushi diner to come to fruition, but brothers Chip and Chad Reed are doing it right. They've hired chef Ben Crockett, a musician who has 17 years of sushi experience, most recently at Sushi Box downtown, to execute the off-the-wall menu that includes everything from traditional American sushi favorites such as spicy tuna rolls and the caterpillar roll to offbeat "Austin hybrids" that are as weird as we imagine ourselves to be. (Note: You'll have to head up or down Burnet Road to Maru or Ichiban for sashimi or nigiri.)

The Cholesta Roll is filled with chicken-fried steak and mashed potatoes topped with cream gravy, while the Rolltalian Stallion packs a caprese salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in a spring roll. Some of the oddball rolls are wrapped in tortillas instead of seaweed, which is a good choice considering contents like cheese (in the Grouch) and ground beef (in the Franchise).

It's inevitable that some customers will come in and explore only one end of the extremes of Roll On Diner's menu, but if you can find the middle ground between the truly strange and the it's-just-too-weird-to-be-true, you'll be pleased.

You can order the Beefy Texan either as a rice bowl or in a roll, and both come with wasabi cole slaw, avocado and spicy barbecue mayonnaise that pair perfectly with the tender beef brisket. The Texas-Asian fusion also plays well in the Guaca-rolly, a shrimp and spicy tuna roll topped with guacamole and jalapeño slices.

Crockett is playing around with several new tempura dishes that I hope will hit the menu soon, but in the meantime, you can get your fried fix with the Dy-no-mite Roll, a shrimp tempura roll topped with fried crab and spicy mayonnaise.

On the lighter side, if you can consider goat cheese the lighter side, check out the Respect My Asparagah roll, which gives due credit to "South Park" character Cartman, the inspiration for the name. It's roasted asparagus cooked until it still has some bite tucked inside a nori roll with candied walnuts, goat cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto.

If you managed to make it through the meal without having your fill of fried, try the fried ice cream, Amy's Mexican vanilla surrounded by vanilla pound cake and tempura fried.

It would take several days' worth of allotted fat and calorie intakes to taste the entire menu, but smaller sampling proved the food isn't as crazy as it sounds on paper.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday for lunch and 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Watch for menu and hour changes on the website, rollonsushidiner.com, or call 454-7655.

Roll On Sushi Diner

5350 Burnet Road

rollonsushidiner.com , 454-7655

Open: Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m.