Rolla is proof that there is no true correlation between distance from the sea and number of seafood restaurants. Rolla is home to five seafood places, three of which are sushi restaurants.
This week I decided to visit Mottomo, one of the three sushi restaurants, located at 1011 Kingshighway, uncomfortably close to Long John Silver’s. The restaurant itself is unassuming and would be hard to find if not for its dated sign advertising Japanese cuisine. The sign is accented by an abstract rendition of a Chinese soup ladle scooping up what could only be some sort of carrot. Beneath the main sign is a changeable letter sign with only one word: “Sushi”.
Despite the bland exterior and minimalist signage, the interior of Mottomo is actually pretty charming. The room is divided by shōji and houseplants which give each table a little privacy. The walls are decorated in typical American sushi restaurant style, with art and items chosen to invoke an image of Japan in people who know it only from books and movies. Unlike many other sushi places, Mottomo does not maintain a pristine or organized appearance. The lights are bright and the restaurant has accumulated an unobtrusive clutter. Mottomo doesn’t feel like a fancy restaurant, it feels like a home. Even in its aged state, I am sure that there is a core group of people that keep coming to Mottomo and love it for its flaws.
The restaurant was nearly empty when I arrived, and so the service was quick. I was seated and quickly began to scan the menu which contained an almost overwhelming number of sushi rolls. I eventually decided to get the Wasabi Bento Box, a sort of sampler which would give me an idea of what Mottomo had to offer.
The first food to come out was a salad and the soup, which was a warm brothy Udon-like soup without noodles. The soup was warm, and had a little bit of crab flavor. Inside floated a disappointing number of vegetables and a few chunks. I couldn’t decide if the chunks were imitation crab or tofu. The salad was a bit better than the soup, made with iceberg lettuce and carrots, and topped with a tangy dressing with hints of ginger and citrus zest.
As I ate, I noticed that the restaurant was entirely silent except for the hushed conversation of the other table. A little music might have made the meal more enjoyable, but there was something intangibly comforting about the quiet atmosphere. A few feet away, I could see my waiter quietly working on homework until the small sound of a bell rang from somewhere in the distance. Immediately he got up and went to get the rest of the food.
The rest of my meal was compartmentalized in an ornate tray. White rice, teriyaki chicken, a California roll, tempura, and two crab rangoons were arranged around a small centerpiece containing a glob of wasabi and brilliant pink ginger.
The California roll was about what I expected from sushi in Rolla, with imitation crab, but it did have crisp cucumber and surprisingly ripe avocado. The crab rangoons were good as well, and it was nice to have something creamy and sweet to break up the salty and powerful flavors of the rest of the meal.
For people who aren’t a fan of sushi, I can say that the teriyaki chicken is a good substitute. The chicken was all good with no gristle or fat, and the sauce was tasty as well, but a bit mundane. The tempura was probably the low point of the meal, as the breading and shrimp were a bit bland, and a little soy sauce was required to help the flavor.
Overall, Mottomo is a quaint addition to Rolla’s seafood selection, but ultimately doesn’t offer extraordinary food. Mottomo is probably only worth visiting if you have a craving for sushi.