When’s the last time you had a meal at Ju-Ni that came out to less than $75? We’d bet $75 and our most prized monstera that the answer is never. But if you want the same high-quality fish for about half the cost of that beloved NoPa spot’s omakase ($220 at the time of writing), head to their casual sister restaurant, Handroll Project. The Mission spot specializing in temaki is fun and laidback—and you won’t have to shell out a week’s worth of rent to get here.
First, how dinner at this 14-seat sushi counter works. The hand rolls are served omakase-style, in sets of five ($36), seven ($55), or ten ($96). Though you can order a la carte (rolls are $7.50-$18 each), the sets are the cost-efficient way to sample the menu. This is the first hand roll bar to touch down in SF, so expect a crowd and a waitlist—they don’t take reservations.
But waiting with the masses is worth it. Once you’re inside this lighthearted and unstuffy place, the fun begins. The space that looks like a start-up office and a stark all-white hallway inside Kim Kardashian’s mansion is filled with other raw fish enthusiasts along for the ride. To your right you might clink glasses of wine with a trio of coworkers in vests or couples going feral over a gleaming box of uni. And as your sushi chef showers an ikura hand roll in frozen monkfish liver pâté with a massive crank, you might strike up a convo with someone filming B-roll for an Instagram reel on their DSLR.
You’d be right to assume that Handroll Project knows a thing or two about rice and fish, given their connection to Ju-Ni. What makes this spot shine is the expertly balanced topping combinations that are straight-up decadent. Scallops and avocado are coated in a creamy miso aioli that could make stale bread taste good. Mixed into the fatty tuna, tiny chunks of pickled radish will audibly crunch in your mouth, although the sound won’t be loud enough to mask your amazed muttered expletives. And definitely add their nose-clearing pickled wasabi roots for a tangy kick to every bite.
This is a quick dinner (you'll be in and out in less than 45 minutes), so don’t expect to kick back for hours, debriefing a break-up with a friend. Instead, come here for casual Wednesday night dates with someone who doesn’t mind waiting an hour or two for some of the best seafood in SF—getting handed a parade of gorgeous fish pockets over a bar is one of the most exciting things to do in the city.
Hand rolls come in sets of five, seven, or ten, or you can order them a la carte. The hand roll toppings can sometimes change up, but here’s an idea of what to expect.
Chef's Poke Handroll
Basically, an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink version of a hand roll. You’ll get an aquarium’s worth of yellowtail belly, salmon belly, tuna belly, barracuda, and more, all chopped up and topped with glistening ikura. If that seems like a lot to keep track of, just focus on the fact that it’s delicious.
Bite-sized pieces of scallop are coated in a slightly sweet miso aioli, and rolled up in crisp nori alongside creamy a slice of avocado. We could come here, eat five of these, and leave happy. And since all the rolls are also available a la carte, you technically can.
Do you like toro? Then you’ll love this. The fatty tuna-topped roll gets a nice crunch from tiny chunks of pickled radish.
Ikura & Ankimo
This is the most memorable roll on the menu. If you’ve been to Ju-Ni, you’ll recognize their signature frozen monkfish liver pâté and ikura nigiri in hand roll form. There’s a lot going on in here, temperature and texture-wise—the freshly shaved pâté is like powdery snow in contrast to the warm rice. Somehow, it all comes together to make a fantastic few bites.
Uni & Ikura
The last roll in the 10-piece set, and the most expensive one on the a la carte menu ($18 apiece). Every bite of the creamy bundle is a delight.