Part one of our guide to Austin's proliferating sushi spots
Sushi Sake9503 Research Blvd. #500, 527-0888
Monday-Thursday, 11:30am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 11:30am-10:30pm; Sunday, noon-10pm
There is something very reassuring about a sushi restaurant where the servers point out items that might be particularly fresh, or conversely that may not be on the menu that day. When it comes to sushi, it's nice to know that a restaurant puts an emphasis on freshness and flavor. This was the case with a fatty tuna ($4.95) I ordered at Sushi Sake not long ago. The waitress informed me that only medium fatty tuna was available; their extra fatty tuna had not been delivered that day. Instead, she recommended that I try the mackerel ($3.50), as it happened to be excellent. She was right -- its full flavor had not a trace of fishiness. And as for the fatty tuna, I suppose my palate is just not sensitive enough to really discern the very fatty from the medium fatty, because in my estimation, the piece I ordered was absolutely silky, beautifully marbled, and it nearly dissolved on the tongue.
One of the youngest of Austin's sushi restaurants, Sushi Sake is also among the chicest. Dimly lit, elegantly trimmed in soft woods, dark tile, and stainless steel, the sophisticated interior here manages to completely obscure the McMall feel of the surrounding chain stores and parking lots at its Research Boulevard location. Though the regular menu changes infrequently, the kitchen offers specials depending on what happens to be fresh and available that day. We were lucky enough to be there on a night when the kitchen had just received a shipment of oysters from Seattle ($6.95). These immense, fleshy bi-valves were served two to the order, on the half shell with just a drizzle of ponzu (a sauce made of lemon, soy, and sugar), lemon zest, and a sprinkling of scallion. Fish slices on their sushi and sashimi menus are ample and always fresh, though not cheap. Single pieces of sushi range from $2-$5, while sashimi is priced $8 and up per five-piece order. Non-sushi appetizers range from $4.95-$12.95, and entrées average around $15.
As their name implies, Sushi Sake also features more than 15 premium brands of sake, some meant to be served cold, and others meant to be served hot. Their finest sake comes with a $250-per-liter price tag. Though a meal at Sushi Sake can take a chunk out of the monthly entertainment budget, it is generally worth it for the excellent quality and friendly service. -- Rachel Feit