.Kuidaore Brings Temaki to Jack London Square

Marcella Luu’s new restaurant joins the hand-roll trend

Marcella Luu discovered “hand-roll” sushi for the first time in Southern California. “I loved how it was just so quick,” Luu said. “It was just simple, quality ingredients.” Her restaurant, Kuidaore, in Jack London Square, takes the same straightforward approach. “I don’t have a full kitchen with a hood or a grill,” she said. “That helps, not having a full-blown menu in this first restaurant experience.”

Kuidaore specializes in individual servings of temaki, which are cigar-shaped rolls as opposed to maki, the tightly bound cylinders which can be sliced apart. To prepare this type of cuisine, Luu’s chefs don’t have to model their knife cuts and culinary goals after sushi master Jiro Ono, who starred in the 2011 documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The chefs at Kuidaore break down the fish, dice it up, place it in the ‘cigar’ of seaweed and … voilà!

When initially hiring chefs, Luu interviewed people who had years of experience working at Japanese restaurants. But many of them were puzzled by the hand-roll concept, which was a distinct departure from traditional rolls. Together with the help of a former restaurant colleague, her chefs have been trained to prepare the fish in a new way.

Luu herself served sushi for a decade in Marin before opening Kuidaore. She decided to open her own restaurant because she loved the concept, and because she loves sushi. “I tend to veer towards ideas or things from my own passions and love for certain foods,” she said. “And there’s nothing really like this in the East Bay.”

When Luu found the space in Jack London Square, she knew exactly how she wanted to arrange the interior. “I have no tables or chairs,” she said. “I’m so gung ho about it being at the bar only. I see people sitting down to chat with people they’ve just met.” Luu believes bar seating is a great way for diners to connect. “And people who live in the area are finding out who their neighbors are,” she said.

Kuidaore never makes more than one hand roll at a time. “So the seaweed stays crispy, the rice is warm,” Luu said. “If you leave it too long, the seaweed becomes chewy because you’re putting the warm rice, the fish and the rest of the ingredients onto it.” The whole point of the concept is to eat it right away. Since hand rolls don’t travel well, Luu plans to offer hosomaki to-go-style rolls in the coming months.

Sashimi is on the menu, but Luu is also fond of crudo and tartars. “We make our own citrus soy sauce in-house. Basically our own ponzu,” she said. “Adding the citrus-soy to the fish enhances and changes it.” One of her favorite dishes is a hamachi crudo ($14) served with garlic and serrano pepper, and finished with micro cilantro and the citrus-soy.

“Since my ingredients are so simple, I want the fish to be the star,” Luu said. “I’m not masking things up with additives.” One of Kuidaore’s main sources of fish comes from International Marine Products in San Francisco.

“They get it straight from Japan,” she said. “And I like king ora salmon from New Zealand. It’s a lot richer, not as lean compared to an Atlantic salmon.” The uni is from Hokkaido and the hamachi is also from Japan. “I definitely take pride in the quality of my fish,” she added.

Another standout dish on the menu is the A5 Miyazaki Wagyu ($17) premium hand roll. “That’s one of our big stars,” Luu said. “We finish ours with a little truffle salt. I love all things truffle.” A $25 version of the roll includes uni and caviar.

“That’s a great finisher because you’ve had all this raw fish and it’s something cooked and yet so tender,” she added. “I always tell my servers if anyone orders wagyu they definitely have to finish with it because that’s just a great way to end the meal.”

Kuidaore, open Tue to Sun, 5-9pm; Jack London Square, 431 Water St., Oakland. 510.392.2288. kuidaorehandrollbar.com.

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