Second Helpings: Japanese

Mick Vann samples some of Austin's Japanese restaurants in this week's "Second Helpings."


The weekly Chronicle feature "Second Helpings" offers readers the opportunity to sample tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings compiled from new and previous reviews, guides, and poll results. This week's entries were compiled by Chronicle Food writer Mick Vann. When you need quick, reliable information about Austin eateries.

Shogun

1807 Slaughter #225, 292-1580

Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2pm; Monday-Saturday, 5:30-10pm

Shogun is the far south option for lovers of Japanese cuisine, with 24 different lunch specials offered between $5.25 and $6.95. A full menu of fresh and firm sushi selections are also available. Shogun has a great assortment of appetizers, from which diners could make their own kaiseki dinner, or go with the specials menu, the large selection of noodle dishes, or any of the standards. Be sure and try the Sunomono salad of crab, cucumber, and seaweed. Shogun is a small space big on flavor.

Banzai

2120 Guadalupe, 320-0657

Monday-Friday, 11am-3:30pm, 4:30-9pm;

Saturday, noon-9pm; Sunday, 2-9pm

Banzai offers the UT Japanese food junkies their fix, right next to the old Quack's. Very reasonable prices for a somewhat limited menu, but all the bases are covered, including sushi. Lunch specials include sushi and main-dish items for around $5 or the Bento Box combos for $7. All the noodles are represented, along with katsus, tempuras, and teriyakis. Be sure you try the Unagi (sweet glazed eel) in sushi form, or over rice ($4.99) ... it's a delight. Nice selections for the vegans.

Zen

2900 W. Anderson #250, 451-4811

Monday-Saturday, 11am-9pm; Sunday, 11:30am-8pm

Zen offers quick Japanese fast food at really great prices for the diner on the go. How cheap? ... try four pieces of Spicy Tuna Roll for $2.39 or a side bowl of Udon Noodles for a buck! The menu is selective, but most categories are covered, from sushi to salads, rice bowls with toppings to teriyaki. It's easy for the diner to customize the meal, getting as much or as little as desired. Zen's perfect for that healthy Japanese food fix when you're in a rush.

Kyoto
Kyoto (Photo By John Anderson)

Kyoto

4815 W. Braker #580, 346-5800

Monday-Friday, 11am-2pm, 5:30-10pm; Saturday, 5:30-10pm

315 Congress #200, 482-9010

Tuesday-Friday, 11:30am-2pm; Monday-Saturday, 6-10:30pm

Sushi's the thing at both locations, but there are other options to choose from, such as Kushi Teri (skewers of chicken, beef, or veggies), katsu, teriyaki, tepanyaki, sukiyaki, tempura, and yakisoba. The most expensive menu item is also the most economical: Combo B, which is shrimp and veggie tempura, grilled salmon, seafood kushi, and sushi, with all the trimmings for $19.95. One of Austin's Japanese mainstays.

Ichiban

7310 Burnet Rd., 452-2883

Monday-Friday, 11am-10:30pm; Saturday, noon-10:30pm; Sunday, 4-10:30pm

Ichiban is one of the favorites of the native Japanese in Austin, considered a good sign by non-native diners like us. They offer some Korean fare as well as all of the traditional Japanese items, and of course, sushi (considered by many to be in the top three of Austin's sushi restaurants). A major plus at Ichiban is large entrée portioning and a focus on taste as well as artistry of presentation. You'll find efficient service in the finest Japanese tradition.

Benihana

9070 Research, 451-7505

Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-10pm; Saturday, 11:30am-11pm; Sunday, 11:30am-10pm

At Benihana, the show's the thing, with chefs cooking at your table hibachi with a flurry of flashing steel and leaping flames. But the food is surprisingly good as well. The prices might seem a little on the high side, but you get a lot of chow for the price, not to mention the entertainment value. Interesting sides and a full sushi menu are also available, and your kids will go nuts over the dazzling cooking activities. Now serving lunch daily!

Osaka

13492 Hwy. 183 N., 918-8012

Monday-Friday, 11:30am-2pm, 5:30-10pm; Saturday, 5-10pm; Sunday, 5-9pm

Osaka is the fave of the far-flung northwestern area in town and has a solid reputation for its outstanding sushi presentations. The atmosphere is serene, sedate, and cozy ... perfect for family dining or that special date. Aside from the sushi bar, Osaka has a fairly complete selection of traditional Japanese fare, all prepared with care and concern. If you find yourself jonesing for a Japanese fix in the upper-left-hand corner of town, Osaka is hard to beat.

Pango Tea Bar

718 Congress, 478-8899

Monday-Thursday, 11am-midnight; Friday, 11am-3am;

Saturday, noon-3am

Pango is the newest entry in several categories, including floral and specialty teas, syphone process and Dutch water drip-process coffees, pearl milk and jelly teas, and traditional Chinese cha (tea) ceremony presentations. They feature sushi, rice rolls, dumplings, spring rolls, and wraps in an ever-expanding menu as they get settled into their new location. It's the perfect spot for that late-night pick me up.

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