Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Up Roll CaféRestaurant Insider
November 21, 2021
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with Up Roll Café co-owners ANNA AND MANNY MANIWA
Up Roll Café owner Manny Maniwa is not your usual chef. He actually is a food scientist, and majored in chemistry in college. He left Japan to travel to Europe, Turkey, India and the Mediterranean to learn various culinary styles and techniques, and spices/flavor combinations. Understanding the science behind the balance of flavors from salty to sweet, sour and bitter, he blends to create his form of umami, the base for Up Roll’s housemade sauces and dressings. I was able to sit with Manny and his wife Anna to taste some of Up Roll Café’s popular healthy dishes.
AL: How did you come up with the idea for Up Roll Café?
AM: In 2014, we came up with the concept to bring healthy Japanese fast-food to Hawaii. We fell in love with Hawaii and its powerful energy that is found within local ingredients. The concept started with offering more fresh vegetables and healthy options. Other than eating a salad, you really don’t get a full serving of vegetables. Then came the evolution of the sushi burrito. We wanted to create a way of putting an entire meal in the palm of your hand. With the sushi burrito, we’re able to add our Asian twist to provide all the flavors in our bowls into an easy-to-hold burrito.
AL: Tell me a little more about the menu offerings?
AM: Our entrées are handcrafted as either a sushi roll burrito or bowl, paired with our housemade sauces and dressings. Everything is made to order, and we wanted to offer a variety of options so you can create your specialty roll and continually change things up with different flavor combinations using our sauces and toppings to create your new favorite.We truly want you to have fun with your food and enjoy eating healthy. You may meet your new favorite when you take a chance and try something new.
AL: What are your popular items?
AM: Our most popular item is our Ahi Lover Avocado Roll ($14). We use local fresh ahi marinated in a local ginger sauce with Big Island avocados and local vegetables with a choice of white rice, brown rice, quinoa, or on a salad in either a bowl or a roll. We sell about 100 of these a day across all of our stores.
The Sexy Salmon ($13) is tossed in our housemade lemon marinade with sprouts, takuan and cucumber. This is fresh, raw salmon, but many of our guests like to have it seared for $1 more.
Teriyaki Chicken ($9.75) is popular, as we pull meat off a fresh whole chicken and marinate it in shoyu broth. It’s served with edamame, green onions and takuan.
All our dishes can be made as a vegetarian option, and we also have special vegan item. Our popular Vegan Inari ($10) includes edamame, tofu and vegetables with a house vegan onion sauce.
We offer daily specials, including the Pico de Shrimp ($12.50), served with shrimp in lemon marinade, olive oil, cilantro, green onion, tomato, jalapeños and corn.
Our popular Butterfly Pea Tea ($4.50) is a special drink. This is where the chemist side of my husband’s background comes to play. We take butterfly pea tea and add our fresh lemon syrup, and it creates this beautiful reaction and color change.
AL: Tell me more about your locations.
AM: In 2014, when we were looking for a location to start this new concept, we were lucky enough to meet Stanford Carr. He invited us to become one of the key tenants in his upcoming development along the rail line. With his support, we were able to make our dream a reality.
Increasing in popularity, we opened Pearl Highlands in 2017 and our Kailua location in 2019. Most recently, we started a partnership with Mitsuwa Market in Waikiki in 2021. Each location is a little different, with our daily specials customized to the clientele base. Our Kailua location is our first with a liquor license, and we hope to bring this to Kakaako soon.
AL: Can you tell me more about the Stanford Bowl?
AM: To show our appreciation for the help and support Stanford provided us, we cre ated the Stanford Bowl ($13), available at the Kakaako location. This is housemade teriyaki chicken with edamame, green onions, takuwan and quinoa — this is what he typically orders.
AL: What are your future plans for the restaurant?
AM: We are looking at opening new locations on Oahu and neighbor islands. We’ve done a few pop-up events in California, and due to the success of these events, we are exploring opening locations on the mainland. We are also able to offer our dressings and sauces to order online at uprollcafe.com. We are currently hiring for positions in all of our locations.
AL: Anything special for the holidays?
AM: Up Roll has multiple options starting with our “Learning How to Roll” — your choice of any four rolls (Ahi Lover, Sexxy Shrimp, California Crab, Teri Chicken, Aoli Chicken, Spicy Shrimp,Vegan Inari or Keiki) for only $55 (feeds four to six). If you want to go all in, you can order our “This is How We Roll Set,” which includes one of each of our fantastic rolls for $78 (feeds eight to 10). Free delivery on any orders above $78.