Sushi Takes Over Austin
In a town dominated by Tex-Mex and barbecue, something fishy is happening
For a town best known for its Tex-Mex and barbecue restaurants, Austin has sushi spots everywhere, from the high-end, cutting-edge marvels to neighborhood spots in strip malls and even grocery stores. While I welcome the trend as a sushi lover, I'm well aware that the same thing is true as with any other type of cuisine: Not all sushi is good sushi. Make careful choices where freshness and sustainability are concerned.
Sushi restaurants are not new to Austin, as demonstrated by longtime favorites such as the venerable Musashino (3407 Greystone, 795-8593), Kyoto (315 Congress #200, 482-9010), and longstanding Korean restaurants with sushi bars, including Seoul Restaurant – now known as DK Sushi (6400-C S. First, 326-5807) – and Korea House (2700 W. Anderson, 458-2477). Slowly but surely more Asian restaurants started embracing the sushi bar as Austin's love for raw fish grew. Nowadays, it's almost a prerequisite for Asian eateries, Japanese or not.
Among the Japanese establishments, I like Mikado Ryotei (9033 Research, 833-8188), Kenobi (10000 Research, 241-0119), the new Yanagi (4404 W. William Cannon, 891-0989) and Tomodachi (4101 W. Parmer, 821-9472), which is my second favorite place for sushi after Uchi (801 S. Lamar, 916-4808).
Chinatown (3407 Greystone, 343-9307) and Snow Pea (3706 Jefferson, 454-3228) are two Chinese favorites with sushi bars, although almost every Chinese buffet in town serves it as well. With a few authentic exceptions, every Thai restaurant in Austin now has a sushi bar (but my take here is to stick to the Thai food). We've seen an influx of Korean restaurants lately, with many of them featuring good sushi, including KG Sushi Train at Korea Garden (6519 N. Lamar, 302-3149) and the new Chosun Galbi (713 E. Huntland, 419-1400). Two unique recent arrivals are adding cool twists to the classics: Piranha Killer Sushi (207 San Jacinto, 473-8775), a small Texas-based chain created by Vietnamese chef Kenzo Tran, features his home country's influences in many of his dishes, such as the refreshing Vietnamese summer roll: salmon, tuna, crab, greens, mango, and asparagus wrapped with rice paper. There are also a few Caribbean-inspired takes, featuring conch and other island flavors. Sushi Zushi (1611 W. Fifth, 474-7000; 3221 Feathergrass, 834-8100) is a San Antonio-born chain with a Mexican accent. Besides having the most extensive, mind-boggling sushi menu I've ever seen, it features Mexican-inspired flavors, as in the My Spurs roll with hamachi, cilantro, avocado, tomato, and serrano chiles – sort of like ceviche rolled in rice paper. The men behind the sushi bar are almost exclusively Latino, another thing I like at this fun new place.
There are also the high-end steak houses with sushi bars, such as Finn & Porter (500 E. Fourth, 493-4900) and Mizu Prime Steak & Sushi (3001 RR 620 S., 263-2801), which both feature elegant surroundings, eclectic menus, and fine sushi selections. On the other end of the spectrum, fast-casual concepts like Zen (various locations) are a popular option for takeout, as are Central Market, most H-E-Bs, and Whole Foods. In a pinch, these make fine quick lunches. Last but not least, sushi has also reached the trailer phenomenon with places like Sushi A-Go-Go (4001 Medical Pkwy., 560-1655). These guys are cool beyond belief: they can even make sushi birthday cakes!