| 13 Aug 2014 | 12:45

    There?s plenty of great sushi in town, but there?s always room for more, especially if it?s as imaginatively prepared as it is at Rock-N-Sake. In fact, many of chef David Hoang?s handrolls are not available anywhere else. The restaurant is co-owner Joseph Ulloa?s third edition of Rock-N-Sake. He opened his first in the posh warehouse district of New Orleans, but Hurricane Katrina clobbered that. Undaunted, he reopened the restaurant in Port Washington, Long Island, with great success. Teaming up with former Wall Street financier Richard Volpe, he opened a jazzy new rendition in Chelsea just a month ago. The 60-seat dining room features light mustard walls and warm, mostly indirect lighting. Behind the sushi bar, which runs the length of the dining room, is a giant mural of a woman with sushi rolls on a sword. A six-foot sculpture of a largely devoured tuna hangs head-down from the ceiling in the center of the dining room. Gentle samba music is piped into the dining room?Gato Barbieri?s music for Last Tango in Paris played several times. All in all, this is the least Japanese-feeling Japanese restaurant I can recall visiting. Like most new restaurants, it has a definite lounge air about it. Wrapped hot moist napkins are brought (I wish every restaurant would do this?it could wipe out influenza!). Of course, with a name like Rock-N-Sake, there are lots of sake cocktails available. I enjoyed an endlessly smooth Zen-Tini made with Zen green tea liquor, Alchemia ginger vodka and fresh lemon juice. Chef Hoang has worked with Ulloa for the past seven years. He began his cooking life in the kitchen of his family?s Vietnamese restaurant, and there are a few Vietnamese touches in several of his current dishes. Spicy tuna dip is a blend of freshly and finely chopped ruby tuna with minced scallions, masago (an Icelandic caviar) and a nippy chile-spiked mayonnaise. Crispy won-ton chips surround the mound of dip. ?Chelsea Pie? has a distinctly Mexican accent, thanks to the preponderance of guacamole and the inclusion of grilled tortillas in the assemblage, which goes on to include thin tuna sashimi, diced mangos and fried tempura batter with the chef?s ?special sauce.? You can tell by now that this menu is as wild and crazy as the restaurant?s name. And I should mention that the reasonably priced portions throughout dinner are more than generous. Six marinated slices of kobê beef are brought with a ?River Stone??a searingly hot little brazier. The beef is so tender and lean that you won?t want to cook it past rare. On to the main event: Hoang?s handrolls. The menu boasts 37 of them, each one quite unusual and rather enormous. The LSU Roll features tempura shrimp and cream cheese, topped with kani salad and layered with tuna and avocado, all finished with a highly flavorful eel sauce. Two tempuraed shrimp tails protrude out of both ends of the row of sliced roll. A spicy crawfish roll sizzles with that chile-spiked mayonnaise. Tiger?s Eye roll combines smoked salmon, avocado and asparagus, all wrapped with squid and baked. The squid flavor is a bit overwhelming. And asparagus is rather distracting in the Warehouse roll, which features tuna, salmon, yellowtail and smelt roe. But the accompanying spicy mayonnaise brings the flavors together well. The Dragon roll is perhaps the best of the batch we tried. Rich crab salad, avocado and asparagus are rolled together and topped with barbecued eel and more avocado, all finished with eel sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Eel bowl is almost chirashi-style, but the rice is warm. Plump slices of eel are swabbed with miso and nicely toasted. Daikon radish slices and a slab of wasabi complete the ample portion. Tempura cheesecake is New York-style (meaning lots of cream cheese), deep fried until it?s very melty, then it?s placed on a plate criss-crossed with chocolate sauce. Bananas Foster are rich as hell. The caramelized bananas are sauced with a cinnamon-laced, rummy caramel. Two enormous scoops of vanilla ice cream are on hand. Rock-N-Sake is only a month old, and it?s in an area of Chelsea that?s not particularly noted for good restaurants, but it?s already found an enthusiastic audience. Next time you?re craving Japanese, you should definitely join them. -- Rock-N-Sake 138 W. 25th St. Between Sixth and Seventh aves. 212-255-7253 Entrées: $18 to $31 -- [tom@hugeflavors.com](mailto: tom@hugeflavors.com)