Flavor infusion

Origami Asian Grill

Just eye all of those fresh toppings packed into Origami Asian Grill’s Cold Noodle Salad. (Insert Homer Simpson “Mmm …” here.)

Just eye all of those fresh toppings packed into Origami Asian Grill’s Cold Noodle Salad. (Insert Homer Simpson “Mmm …” here.)

Photo by Stephanie Stiavetti

Good for: A quick dinner with big flavor
Notable dishes: Fried Chicken, Bahn Mi with glazed pork belly
Asian fusion, East Sacramento

Origami Asian Grill

4801 Folsom Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95819

(916) 400-3075

When Origami Asian Grill opened this summer, touting the idea of Asian fare served in a similar style to the ubiquitous Chipotle Mexican fast food chain, cynical diners might have raised an eyebrow were the idea not presented by Scott Ostrander and Paul DiPierro, chef-alums of Paragary’s and The Inn at Park Winters. (Ostrander also did a stint at Chicago’s mega-star darling Alinea.) What they’ve created is something wholly unlike Chipotle—aside from the “build-your-own” format.

Stationed within the East Sac hipster strip mall that is Folsom Boulevard and 48th Street, Origami’s concept is simple: decide on a dish, then pick from a rotating cast of proteins and vegetables to go with it. Ordering is relatively straightforward. The food shows up quickly and, for the most part, delectably.

The Fried Chicken ($12 for half a bird) is popular for a reason; its crispy coating is infused with maple and fresh herbs, then sprinkled with orange zest and drizzled with maple syrup, giving it an ethereally sweet-salty-floral quality that nearly caused my brain to short circuit from sheer flavor overload (in a good way). As an unapologetic bahn mi zealot, I was also pleased to find Origami’s version ($10) intriguing yet familiar. I ordered mine with glazed pork belly, which on its own lent an incendiary sweet succulence to the sandwich, then found balance when heaped with pickled veggies, sliced Fresno chiles and fermented chili aioli.

The Brown Rice Bowl with smoked tri-tip ($13) was a rare combination of healthy and deeply satisfying, piled high with vegetables and burnished with a charred onion glaze. If you’re looking for something lighter while still packing in the flavor, the Cold Noodle Salad with yuzu-ginger dressing ($10) was the most refreshing meal I’ve had all season, with the bracing punch of green papaya bolstered by peanuts and sweet carrots.

I was excited to try the Ramen with pork belly ($13). The dish showed up colorful and intensely aromatic, but flavor-wise it needed a little love. While the handmade noodles had a lovely flavor and texture, the broth lacked soul and the level of comfort I look for in a bowl of ramen. Others report great ramen experiences here, so this may have been a one-off error.

One final visit yielded fried chicken with barely a teardrop of maple and zero orange zest, which made me sad, because I’d so been looking forward to it; it was still good, it just wasn’t as good as the first two times. The Poke ($9), however, was a lighthearted chorus of ahi tuna, avocado, cucumber and soy mayo. The gently spicy togarashi seasoning and crispy fried rice paper chips made for a playful, energizing experience that I will absolutely be repeating.

What’s the final thought on Origami? Solid. Yes, that’s the word I’m using—as in the food was rock solid, for anyone unsure what it means in a culinary context. Barring a few day-to-day inconsistencies, the food at Origami is both adventurous and familiar, which is not an easy feat. And when they open their late-night takeout window, I’ll be there begging for my 11 p.m. fried chicken fix.