How does Curry Prawn Sushi sound like to you? Or what about sushi topped with chopped strawberries? Filled with kimchi? Odd, delicious, or just plain bizarre? To Ivan and Amy Chuang – parents of senior Hannah Chuang – this idea of Japanese fusion has led to the construction of one of the most popular Asian fusion restaurants in Singapore, Rollie Olie.
In 2014, Mr. and Mrs. Chuang came up with the idea of a California-type fast food restaurant offering gourmet products with the finest ingredients. From this idea emerged Rollie Olie. The restaurant specializes in fusion California-style rolls, poke bowls and sushi burritos. With a menu spanning only three short pages, ordering is easy and efficient, and food takes as little as 10 minutes to prepare.
One area which sets Rollie Olie apart from being just another restaurant on the Singapore frontier is the aesthetic pleasure of their products. Each roll takes anywhere between 10-20 minutes to make, depending on how busy the restaurant is, but it is obvious in the intricate design how much effort is put into each individual piece. People from Singapore American School especially find their rolls to be especially delicious-looking and often post on some form of social media about the restaurant, whether it be Instagram or Snapchat.
Mrs. Chuang shares the story behind this restaurant in an exclusive interview.
Q: What does it take to be the owner of a restaurant in Singapore?
A: It takes very much work, besides all the money and funds. But if you have a great idea, then just go with it. Don’t be scared, do the usual stuff, do your research and eventually things will find their way. Hiring was especially hard, it took us a long time to find the chefs, but we stuck through with it and ended up here.
Q: How did you develop the concept for this restaurant?
A: We always loved American-style sushi, and the traditional Japanese kind too. Since we moved here 13 year ago, we missed the American sushi and whenever we went back to the States we would always get those types of food. So we thought, why not try and mix it?
Q: When did the restaurant first open?
A: May 2015.
Q: How long did it take to fully execute the idea? What was the process?
A: More than a year before it opened. One idea was a poke bowl. My husband had a business trip to Hawaii and tried one there and he absolutely loved it. But he realized there was no poke bowl place outside of Hawaii. It became more popular, so we thought maybe we could do a poke bowl, but to be safe we started out with rolls. We didn’t want to do traditional fine dining either, we wanted to make it fun and more accessible to everyone. We really wanted the fast food concept but with gourmet food, the idea morphed as we went along with the process.
Q: What about your restaurant do you think makes it stand out amongst other fusion restaurants?
A: We add little things to make sure everyone can find something we enjoy, such as being healthy with salads and other side things we have for those allergic to our main ingredients
Q: What do you think it takes to make a successful restaurant in Singapore? How might it be different from other countries?
A: It’s actually very hard to run a restaurant here because the cost is so high. The rental is high, manpower is high, ingredients cost is high. So I would say you need to have a start up fund, but the government does provide grants, since they know manpower is high, they provide refunds for machines that lessen the need for manpower.
Q: Would you say the visual appeal of your products has led to further success?
A: I think so, we live in an age where Instagram is dominating everything, I see it with my daughters always on Instagram. We thought the food should look good. We wanted to make it Instagram worthy so we specifically told the chefs it has to look nice and very photogenic.
Q: What did you have in mind for the interior when you first designed it? Did you have any inspiration from restaurants you have seen prior?
A: It changed along the way, but we knew we wanted that open, sunny Ccalifornia feel, we looked for that when we aimed for a location, high ceilings, open sunny windows. When we were designing it we didn’t want to crowd it up because that open feel would get lost. That’s one downside, the fact that we didn’t crowd up the restaurant with seatings. The drawing on the interior, I always wanted to do something a bit funkier since I am an interior designer.
Q: Has social media affected the success of your restaurant?
A: Yes definitely, we didn’t do much advertising on our own and our restaurant isn’t very obvious. It was through bloggers finding us. They write things and make people want to come. Instagram has also played a big factor with our success, we have people come to the restaurant showing us pictures of the roll asking which one it is!
Q: What unique traits does Rollie Olie have that makes it so appealing to others?
A: The taste, the freshness, the looks and the ambience. It feels relaxed and easy, you don’t need to dress up for it you can just go to hang out with your friends.
Q: Are you considering opening up any more stores?
A: We are thinking about a third one, we have a few options but we are not sure yet. We are also considering having it be more direct to one particular kind of product, like the way Pasarbella is directed toward Poke bowls.
Q: Do you have any food ideas that are in development?
A: Sushi burritos can even be a restaurant of its own one day. Like the poke bowl, we started with one and it expanded over time. Hopefully one day we could do make more of a name with the sushi burritos and have a restaurant to focus particularly on them.
Q: Do you have any particular cuisine you would want to see fused with sushi?
A: We played with Thai-flavored poke bowl. I personally liked it a lot, but some thought it tasted too Thai, so we are still working on that one.
Q: Any ideas in the works for new rolls?
A: We have a beef roll that is in the works. We really want to offer something with grilled wagyu beef, hopefully that will be ready to go soon.
Q: What is your favorite roll?
A: It has changed so many times, but my current favorite is “Dos Amigos.”
Rollie Olie currently has two outlets in Singapore, one located at The Star Mall and another at the Pasarbella food court in Suntec City. If you’re craving a variety of tastes or just feeling incredibly daring, make sure to stop by!