The team behind the Michelin-starred Ju-Ni have a new project in the works: Chef Geoffrey Lee and partner Tan Truong are opening an ingenuously named hand roll restaurant called Handroll Project in the Mission, Truong confirmed for Eater. “This is something we’ve actually been thinking about doing for a long time,” Truong says. “Before we opened Ju-Ni we were actually thinking about opening a hand roll place in that spot.”
The pair first teased the new project on Tuesday afternoon via a post on the restaurant’s Instagram — with a simple caption “we’re excited!” — that showed a photo of an application for a liquor license transfer. The application is for the Mission neighborhood space that most recently housed Al’s Deli, which closed in March 2020, and then Tripleta, the short-lived Puerto Rican pop-up from a brothers José and Juan Rigau. Tripleta shuttered abruptly in early 2021 after the Rigaus partnership with chef Aaron London soured; José was formerly the general manager Al’s Deli.
At this early stage, Truong says there aren’t many additional details to share about Handroll Project. Lee is still working on the menu, but customers will be able to order sets of handrolls or, for a lighter meal or a snack, a single hand roll or two a la carte. There will be a counter for indoor seating plus takeout so diners can take their food over to nearby Dolores Park to enjoy al fresco. And while the price point for both sets and individual rolls has yet to be nailed down, Troung says the restaurant will be “affordable.”
In fact, affordability and approachability are part of what drew the team to doing a hand roll concept. While hand rolls have always factored into the Ju-Ni menu as an add-on to the omakase menu, Troung says he and Lee hope this new venture will be more accessible to a wider swath of diners. They’re working with a contractor now to determine how they can maximize the space to accommodate a larger counter for seating inside, and they hope to be able to open by mid- to late-October.
Lee and Truong opened Ju-Ni in NoPa in 2016, and the restaurant has since become one of San Francisco’s premier destinations for sushi and omakase-style dining. Since the beginning, Lee has crafted exquisite 12-course omakase menus that helped the earn the restaurant its Michelin star in 2017. During the pandemic the restaurant executed stunning and splurge-worthy chirashi bowls before setting up one of SF’s first pandemic-era outdoor omakase counters, where diners interact with Lee through a wood-and-plexiglass barrier with a small opening at the bottom so he can deliver each course to customers.