Welcome to the new Roseville

You could spend your whole life in Sacramento, never make the 20-minute trip to Roseville and wind up happy as a clam. Oh, you’d miss out on a few things. You’d never enjoy the thrill of scoring a bargain at Denio’s. You’d never get to ponder the meaning of that ugly-ass orange sculpture on the side of the highway just past the Roseville city limits. And you’d never get to see the hundreds of Jim Varney banners hanging off the lamp posts at John L. Sullivan Chevrolet in the Roseville Auto Mall.

(By the way, could someone tell John L. Sullivan that Jim Varney is dead?)

What I’m trying to get at here is that you’d never get to see the old Roseville. But you’d also never get to see the new Roseville, and frankly, well, it’s almost worth seeing. I’m kidding. Of course it’s worth seeing. You’ve got Douglas Boulevard, thriving with new shops and restaurants. You’ve got nearby Granite Bay, bristling with some of the nicest homes in the region. And you’ve got the new Galleria mall, which is, well, a giant mall just like the two giant malls we have here in Sacramento.

Because of the giant new mall, there are going to be a lot more new restaurants in Roseville. Rice & Company, an Asian bistro, located right next to Border’s in the mouth of the mall’s west entrance, is one of them.

The original Rice & Company is in Tampa; the Roseville restaurant is the second location. As the name suggests, it’s a pan-Asian joint, featuring Thai, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese cuisine, with a heavy nod toward the Japanese end of the spectrum. There are 10 different brands of premium sake, a full sushi bar and $15.95 bento box specials.

Yeah, that’s right, $15.95. A little high for a bento box, but give ’em a break. They’ve only been open a couple of months; they’ll figure it out. It looks and tastes as though they’ve already got a good handle on the food.

For appetizers, we selected salmon shinoda, five-spice pork ribs and a fried sushi roll. The shinoda, salmon paté wrapped in tofu skin, was delicate and smooth. The sushi, rolled in sesame seeds and lightly fried, proved to be an interesting variation. The ribs were sweet and meaty, although with only three per serving, we felt a little short-changed.

Entrees were also impressive, with a few exceptions. The Thai seafood with garlic basil sauce nearly seared my esophagus (that’s a good thing) and was loaded with scallops, mussels and shrimp. The Indonesian curry chicken featured a half-pound of tender, mildly seasoned breast meat. The Bangkok pad Thai was an adequate rendition of the Thai staple, but $10.95 seemed a little high for the Rice & Co. wrap, which was more or less a glorified steak burrito.

A couple of not-so-minor gripes: First, there’s this “sharing” concept Rice & Company promotes on the menu. It’s based, according to our waiter, on the Asian family custom of sharing all of the food on the table. There are “sharing starters,” “sharing noodles” and “sharing main events.” So, you’d figure that means you order one of those items, say one of the “sharing main events,” and share it, right? Wrong. Each “sharing main event” is a stand-alone entree meant for one person. What the hey?

Which leads to my second gripe. The “sharing main events” come on enormous square plates that are exactly one-quarter the size of the tables. Order four entrees, and you’ve got the entire table covered, leaving no place for chopsticks, forks, knives, glasses or any other table implement. Makes it kind of tough to eat.

Like the pricing, these are discrepancies that can be addressed. Take care of them, and I’d say Rice & Company has made a successful transition to Roseville.