Alibi V.28 No.37 • Sept 12-18, 2019

Restaurant Review

Roll Your Own

Hosho finds light bites appealing at Spring Rollin’

spring rolls
I see them rollin’, I ate them, you won’t see me ridin’ hungry.
Eric Williams Photography

I don't know if this is true for you, but as always happens this time of year, with the coming of oppressive heat comes a marked change in appetite. Even just the idea of a big, heavy dinner sounds downright unappetizing and lighter, fresher meals tend to rule the season. But there are only so many salads or light sandwiches, so what's a slightly hungry diner to do?

At first glance you probably wouldn't think you could successfully build a restaurant around what, in America, is basically considered an appetizer, but that's exactly what Spring Rollin' has done. With spring rolls made right before your eyes and egg rolls flash fried as you pick your spring roll ingredients, they've combined traditional with inventive to a pretty delicious effect.

A small space largely dominated by the ingredients bar, you step up and order, watching the friendly folks make your meal up fresh. Be warned that your first visit can feel a little overwhelming, as there are a host of questions for each roll. To avoid decision fatigue, you can simply opt for a couple of the standards. By the time you finish ordering your first go-round, the staff will surely have you feeling like a pro (or, at least not like a novice) and ready to shoot the works on your next visit.

Starting with the more traditional stuff on the menu, the "traditional" ($5.25) is a rice paper wrap over rice noodles and a few shrimp. The shredded daikon, carrot, cucumber and lettuce add a sharp and earthy crunch, a moist and cool bite. There's a crispy fried wonton wrapper rolled tight, giving the spring roll a sturdy texture, and as far as a sauce for dipping, the traditional approach would be a luxurious peanut sauce or, of course, the fish sauce. They also offer a brown rice paper wrap, which seemed chewier while not holding the wrap together as well--which seems mutually exclusive, but there you go. The pork sausage ($5.25), again with the same veggies and texture as the traditional, is surely the crowd pleaser and easily stands up to any of the sauces on offer. If you want spice, go with the green chile or the sriracha-lime. Better still, add some green chile to the roll itself, as I found it to have the down-home heat and flavor to please a local's palate! Choices are limited for the vegetarian and vegan out there, so I'd love to see Spring Rollin' hop on the Impossible (or something like it) train and offer a protein beyond just tofu ($5.25). Still, the fresh herbs and veggies, including cucumber noodles, will certainly make a roll or two! If you're lucky you might spy some additional ingredients that are not on the menu, so keep a sharp eye out. I managed to catch some grilled jalapeno slices, and they really delivered some extra fire.

Our second go-round was a lot more adventurous, taking advantage of the unique and surprising ingredients to build our own masterpieces. Like they suggest: Pick your wrap, pick your protein, pick your noodle, pick your ingredients, pick your texture ... the only limit is your imagination. We built a roll out of chicken, egg noodle and cilantro along with the daikon and carrot blend ($5.25). There was a soy flavor that worked perfectly with the moist chunks of chicken, and the fresh herbs and vegetables bear mentioning again ... as they elevate what is essentially a grab-and-go appetizer into a light meal that satisfies at an affordable price. So too with our next adventurous roll, shrimp sausage for the protein with shrimp puffs as the crunchy texture ($5.25). The quick sear on the grill adds a smoky note to the rich and surprising sausage, and adding roughage like lettuce helps complete your food pyramid for a balanced bite. But the coup de grâce as far as non-traditional goes had to be the beef jerky and Flamin’ Hot Cheeto spring roll dipped in the nacho cheese sauce ($5.25). Thin-shaved, dried jerky with a dusting of spice brings both texture and heat, and the Cheetos and cheese sauce are approachable as a snack food that's familiar to many folks. For a 100 percent non-traditional yet delicious pairing, it's gotta be the green chile and macaroni and cheese egg roll, which also goes well with the nacho cheese sauce or piling on green chile sauce. The crispy shell plus the gooey insides scream traditional American fare which, let's be honest, works as a kind of comfort food (though hopefully not for every meal).

On the first trip, I washed it all down with a mango lemonade ($2.75 small/3.45 large), which was sweet and silky with subtle and approachable mango—a refreshing summer drink for sure. My second visit featured the passion fruit iced tea, which, again, was a subtle and cool splash for a hot summer day. As both visits were in either the afternoon or late evening—I unfortunately skipped the iced Vietnamese coffee ... but only because I feared the all-night caffeine jitters. Still, I'd love to try one as I have fond memories of those flavors from back when sleep wasn't a consideration. As for the overall experience, it's fast, fresh and friendly food that's light on the stomach and the wallet—a winning combination that's not always so easy to find. But found it they have, so if a light, fresh bite is what you'd like to beat the heat, get rolling!

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6241 Riverside Plaza Ln.
(505) 792-7786
http://spring-rollin.com

Hours: Mon-Thu: 11pm to 9pm Fri-Sun: 11am to 10pm
Vibe: A small but friendly industrial space with light and satisfying fare.
Alibi Recommends: Avoid overwhelm by staying "on menu" for your first trip; then go hog-wild on your second visit!