Rice &Company first appeared on my radar because of its innovative fusion rolls. Although most sushi places across the valley make an effort to set themselves apart with unique rolls — often themed to Las Vegas or local landmarks such as Red Rock or Green Valley — Rice &Company goes the extra mile, with some themed to holidays and one for the “Jabbawockeez” show, which, like the restaurant, is at the Luxor.
So naturally, when I sat down with a menu, that was the first place I went, settling on the Wock and Roll ($19) and the Candy Cane ($18), which were the sushi equivalent of a split decision.
The Candy Cane, the name of which comes from the overlapping red and white colors from the tuna, yellowtail and crab that drape the exterior, actually seemed the least interesting of the two, its interior consisting of shrimp tempura, cucumber and avocado. Although the various flavors tended to blend rather than providing bursts of contrasting flavors, I really liked the crunch of the cucumber, a great counterpoint to the silkiness of the fish.
The description for the Wock and Roll was alluring because of the contrasts promised by the mango salsa, spicy scallops and tempura crunch, but this one blended even more, so that the mango and spicy scallops, in particular, didn’t stand out as much as we would have expected. Keep in mind here that these both were good rolls; they just didn’t provide any surprises in the execution.
Better was a different kind of roll which we started, the Blue Crab &Rock Shrimp Roll ($14). I’ve always loved rock shrimp for its characteristic firm texture and sweet, mild flavor; in fact, a lot of people compare it favorably to lobster. Those qualities stood out here and played off nicely against the more assertive flavor and gentle texture of the crab, and the wrapper that encased it all had a nice brittle crunch. Providing more crunch was a small mound of shredded vegetables on which it rested, while a dish containing a sweet but slightly spicy chili sauce and a Mother-of-God hot mustard offered still more palate-awakening elements.
We also liked the contrasts in the fried banana ($12), the sweet creamy fruit blanketed by a crisp wrapper lined with the nutty/earthy appeal of Nutella.
Less successful, we thought, was an entree of Garlic Chicken with Vegetables ($23). The chicken wasn’t the problem here and neither were the vegetables, but the garlic cloves had been left whole and roasted, which meant that we periodically got bursts of relatively mild garlic flavor. In between, though, the chicken, vegetables and the sauce in which they rested were disappointingly bland.
Service was at times disappointing, too. First, we found ourselves standing too long at the hostess station while the hostess talked fashion choices — at some length — with another guest. Then, our pleasant server seemed to have a particularly poor sense of timing, disappearing for long periods but then reappearing as soon as a dish was brought to ask how we liked it, before we even had a chance to taste it.
We liked the atmosphere at Rice &Company, which is kind of your basic Asian-neutral except that it’s open across the front, and we had a view of the passing parade making its way between Mandalay Place/Mandalay Bay and the Luxor. Like the food at Rice &Company, it was kind of interesting, kind of appealing, but definitely not without its flaws.
Las Vegas Review-Journal restaurant reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Email Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com, or call 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.