The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Sushi

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7. Zushi

I had Zushi all wrong before I finally ate there for the first time. I expected cheesy, strip-mall sushi and instead I got Chef Chris Nemamoto's excellently constructed nigirizushi and beautifully folded tamagoyaki, the true sign of a talented sushi chef. All of Nemamoto's fish is fresh and his rice impeccably seasoned, even if the menu caters heavily to the Americanized roll set. Give it a chance and you'll be impressed too.

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6. Kubo's

Chef Hajime Kubokawa -- or Kubo-san, for short -- is no longer at the sushi restaurant he helped found with owner Yoichi 'Yogi' Ueno. But it's still one of the best sushi joints in the city, a fact that's more impressive considering its longevity and the talent that it's worked with through the years, including Kata Robata's sushi master, Hori-san. Some of my most memorable meals have been at Kubo's over the years, from the night I tried my first idiot fish prepared by current chef Kiyoka Ito to the one-off kaiseki dinner I still dream about.

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5. Sushi Jin

When it first opened, Sushi Jin helped raise the bar for Houston's raw fish lovers. Flown in straight from Japan, the mouthwatering pieces of salmon, tuna and yellow tail are sure to impress even the snobbiest connoisseurs. Wanna walk on the wild side? Jellyfish, sea cucumber and other exotics are hidden away in a secret stash -- all you have to do is ask and prove you're no novice. Private karaoke rooms allow diners to sing and dance, or you can just relax in one of the booths and enjoy the restaurant's simple, elegant decor.

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63 comments
fishluver
fishluver

Sushi Miyagi should not be #1 ...omg the monkfish liver they served me was bad..rotten ...i should of called the health dept.

go eat MF sushi and eat some real fresh fresh


luvtopost
luvtopost

Mai Pham needs to start her own Sushi club...i would definitely join

 

Guest
Guest

Chef Chris Nemoto from Zushi is misspelled "Chef Chris Nemamoto"

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Everyone:  My organization (the Sushi Club of Houston) is preparing to film a video that highlights the 'best of the best sushi' in each area of the city.  If you are interested in sharing your views, what is your favorite: 1. Sushi Value (Great prices for a sushi meal), 2. Great restaurant for Sushi Fusion Rolls. and 3.  Great sushi hot spot for traditional sushi.  Long explanations are not required.  The names for category #1, #2 and #3 would be appreciated.  Then, we will make a listing and begin 'the hunt.'

Carl RosaFounder, the Sushi Club of Houstonwww.houston-sushi.com

Bootsy
Bootsy

I can't believe Blue Fish House on Richmond didn't make the cut. Kaneyama is the GREATEST!

Kata Robata and Zushi are really awful. Zushi is seriously the McDonalds of sushi.

Fasthomo
Fasthomo

What happened to Keeper's in Sugar Land? Hands down the best in greater Houston.

Bodl
Bodl

Best Houston Sushi I've had is at AKA, with Kubo's second.  Redfish Seafood Grill is my choice for best value.  (This opinion is of limited value because, although I've hot most of the places on this list,  I have not been to Sushi Miyagi or Kata Robata yet).

GlendaWarmer
GlendaWarmer

The little Russian fellow at Blue Fish always claims to buy the best, freshest fish and insists his sushi and sashimi is definitely tops. Anyone have experience with them? It's the place downtown and on Washington, not the one on Richmond.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Anyone every been to Sasaki? It's been around for years now.

Dylanj423
Dylanj423

"Top Sushi" on Westheimer deserves to be on this list... It would easily displace "Zushi", I know that for a fact... Better than "Osaka", too..

greg
greg

Zushi, is definetly my favoite, Salmon there is the best I've ever try.

Sue
Sue

Redfish seafood Grill on 249 for the best Sushi rolls ever! Kanyama is good and Ginza but that didnt make it, at lot of the others are over priced for what you get.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Speaking as the founder of the Sushi Club of Houston, I cannot agree with many on this list.  But appreciate Katherine's diligence to highlight the best of Houston.

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

Sakekawa in The Woodlands has never given me reason to search out other places. My second choice would be Masa's in The Woodlands. Both are very solid.TA

Ali
Ali

I like the food at Soma, but I've never had good service. It takes forever and the waiters don't really pay attention to their tables. Shame.

rgwalt
rgwalt

I'm also a big Raku fan.  Their agadashi tofu is the standard by which I judge that dish everywhere else.  I haven't found a better specimin yet.

Evan
Evan

Aw, I like Sushi King's rolls. 

Stef Edstrom
Stef Edstrom

good list, i would replace Oishi w Blue Fish though. Kata #1 in my book, behind Kaneyama - need to try Miyagi. Mmm - thanks!!!!

Hugo0002
Hugo0002

Wait no Sushi Raku?? Maybe you need to go if you haven't been. Aside from the gorgeous space--the sushi is always consistent, that pork belly to die for.  Try it!

Ko
Ko

I agree with your Zushi comment.  That place is awful to the point of being offensive.  Zushi, Osaka, and Azuma do not belong on this list.  Oishii is cheap, but definitely not in the top 10 quality-wise.  Sasaki, Nippon, and Teppay are glaring omissions.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Wow. Amazing how people can disagree.  If you are claiming that Zushi and Kata are 'really awful,' I'm quite curious as to how you judge your sushi, sushi rice, authenticity to the menu and general sushi experience.

BrodySharkhunter
BrodySharkhunter

Keeper Lin btw is the Taiwanese sushi guy who trained with Kubo long ago, then went on to open Kaneyama, then Sushi King. He's also highly educated in marine biology fwiw.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

There are three 'Blue Fish' that you might consider in Houston when it comes to sushi - (1) Blue Fish House, on Richmond, (2) The Blue Fish Japanese Restaurant in downtown, Texas Ave. and (3) The Blue Fish on Washington Ave.  Number two and three are owned by the same folks.  Their fish (on Washington and downtown) is very good.  No denying that.  But as fresh as fish can be, there are many other factors - quality of sushi rice, service, portion size, decor, etc.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Sasaki (on Westheimer) was formerly owned by a hard-working Japanese couple who sold it not that long ago.  The decor reminds you of old Japan or perhaps a small section of sushi stops along the cost of Sendai, Japan.  But the quality has dipped, regrettably.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

I would respectully disagree with you.  Top Sushi (formerly the location of Shimako) provides an acceptable quality and portion but their sushi has been consistently off their game.  Zushi's sushi rice is far superior.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Carl, I would love to hear your list. I know you know the best places around, and I really respect your opinion. Let us in on some of your favorites!

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

It's going to be hard to beat Raku for decor.  Only a few restaurants can come close.  But with respect to value and quality, Raku is in a tough spot due to their location.  Without knowing their fixed and variable costs, I know it must be an outrageous expense.  You need to sell a great deal of fish to pay their rent every month.  So their prices can't be 'the lowest' in town.  They need to obtain a significant value to ensure that they can remain in business month after month...and Patrick (owner of Raku) could not be a nicer, smarter guy.

Brons90
Brons90

sushi raku? they said that you shouldnt drink sake wih sushi. morons!

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Well, Ko, we certainly disagree on some points.  No question about that.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Thaks Katherine.  I appreciate the interest.  Considering Oishii, their attraction is their value (price vs. quality), however their parking lot and dining area are tiny at best.  Redfish Seafood Grill provides an even greater value with enormous parking and two floors of dining...and extraordinary service.

Masa, concerning quality and authenticity, easily wins a top 10 spot in my book.

Ginza has been a strong sushi-based establishment in Houston for more than 15 years.  They are 'Oishii' with a strong traditional menu and outstanding scallop nigiri.  Ginza reminds me of a bustling Asakusa (Tokyo)-based hot spot.  In fact, it isn't unusual to see Ginza packed with local Japanese.

Since Toyama and Osaka are owned and managed by the same company/group, I would have to say that Toyama probably wins the fight between the two of them.  Although Toyama's parking is limited to 18 cars, the new addition of the extended sushi bar and fresh atmosphere compliments their menu.  But the menus between both are almost identical.  So it Osaka would make the list, Toyama should not be far behind (or competing for the same spot).

Nippon (off of Montrose) has been owned and managed by a Japanese family for years.  Considering authenticity, it would be hard to push them any higher but Kubo's and Kata are just as good when it comes to focusing on a true Japanese essence.  However, if Nippon wouldn't make my Top 10, I would consider a few others as contenders.

Teppay (off of Westheimer) focuses on the traditional Japanese cuisine and even resembles a Japanese restaurant in Akihabara.  Thanks to it's menu and adherence to Japanese cuisine, it is always filled with Japanese natives visiting Houston. 

I do agree with your list when it comes to Kubo's, Zushi, Kata.  But other spots such as Hiro Sushi, Matsu and Sushi King would likely compete for my #10.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Thaks Katherine.  I appreciate the interest.  Considering Oishii, their attraction is their value (price vs. quality), however their parking lot and dining area are tiny at best.  Redfish Seafood Grill provides an even greater value with enormous parking and two floors of dining...and extraordinary service.

Masa, concerning quality and authenticity, easily wins a top 10 spot in my book.

Ginza has been a strong sushi-based establishment in Houston for more than 15 years.  They are 'Oishii' with a strong traditional menu and outstanding scallop nigiri.  Ginza reminds me of a bustling Asakusa (Tokyo)-based hot spot.  In fact, it isn't unusual to see Ginza packed with local Japanese.

Since Toyama and Osaka are owned and managed by the same company/group, I would have to say that Toyama probably wins the fight between the two of them.  Although Toyama's parking is limited to 18 cars, the new addition of the extended sushi bar and fresh atmosphere compliments their menu.  But the menus between both are almost identical.  So it Osaka would make the list, Toyama should not be far behind (or competing for the same spot).

Nippon (off of Montrose) has been owned and managed by a Japanese family for years.  Considering authenticity, it would be hard to push them any higher but Kubo's and Kata are just as good when it comes to focusing on a true Japanese essence.  However, if Nippon wouldn't make my Top 10, I would consider a few others as contenders.

Teppay (off of Westheimer) focuses on the traditional Japanese cuisine and even resembles a Japanese restaurant in Akihabara.  Thanks to it's menu and adherence to Japanese cuisine, it is always filled with Japanese natives visiting Houston. 

I do agree with your list when it comes to Kubo's, Zushi, Kata.  But other spots such as Hiro Sushi, Matsu and Sushi King would likely compete for my #10.

Clemtyler
Clemtyler

I know he likes Kaneyama. Bet he likes Keeper's in Sugarland. And the Japanese owned joint at Westheimer / Voss.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Yes.  Their formula and care for the sushi rice is high.  One of the best in the city, easily dwarfing the fusion hot-spots.  Using Nishiki, properly cleaned, an excellent sushi seasoning and acceptable portion sizes for the cost.  I have personally (my own eyes) seen their shipments of Canadian Salmon enter the kitchen, prepared and served.  I value 90% of sushi on the quality, care and preparation of the rice. 

Ko
Ko

You actually think Zushi makes good sushi?  Then, yes.  Yes, we do.

tastybits
tastybits

That's really good to know, I will definitely stop by Zushi sometime soon. I would also really like to get your Detroit list. I have always wanted to visit the city in general, but the promise of solid Japanese restaurant is enough for me to make the effort. 

One surprising city where sushi quality is higher than most is Denver. Sushi Den has been setting the bar high for years, and the diners now expect more from Japanese restaurants and feel comfortable paying higher rates for quality. Rice however? About on par with best in Houston. 

Try Sushi Azabu and Ushiwakamaru in NYC. Best I've found in the midrange ($100 or so for omakase). 

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Mai,

Your reasons are understandable, however, I never judge a sushi restaurant based on the fish.  The skill of the cuts and portion size are crucial, yes.  Suitable fish can be spotty and unpredictable at times.  Additionally, a sushi establishment that can't provide great fish all the time will find themselves apologizing for being out of a few selections.  That's why I appreciate Kata and Kubo's - they sincerely focus on the culinary-based seasons in Japan and base a large portion of their specials on seasonal options made available to us.  It's a rarity.

But you and I merely respectfully disagree - for me, it is not 'all about the fish.  :)

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Misha,

Thank you for your comment.  No, I'm not saying that any sushi rice in Houston matches the quality of Sukiyabashi Jiro, Urasawa or Yasuda.  A superior sushi rice blend, to me, is a hallmark to an extraordinary sushi establishment. 

But I have the good fortune to visit and sample every sushi restaurant in Houston continually - in some cases, 5 sushi restaurants per day.  Sometimes, as a customer.  Sometimes, as a consultant.  Sometimes, as an event organizer.  I know which restaurants take the time to provide body temperature sushi rice while attempting to perfect their mixture to reach a suitable flavor which compliments the fish.  Most (in Houston) do not care at all.  Several (such as Kata Robata, Kubo's and sometimes Nippon) pride themselves on focusing on the quality of the rice using a time-tested recipe.  Others (such as Zushi and Masa in the Woodlands) strive to provide a uniformed, consistent sushi rice for their customers. In my opinion, 95% of all sushi restaruants in Houston never consider the rice as an integral factor to quality.  Zushi does.  I've seen it myself time and time again.  For that reason alone, Zushi deserves my appreciation.  Near the bottom of the message board, Ko describes Zushi as 'is awful to the point of being offensive.'  I respectfully disagree.

One final note - there are a few impressive sushi spots in Detroit.  I had the opportunity to dine with Hiroko Shimbo while she was unveiling her latest book and she showed me around 'The Motor City.'  At first, I had no idea why Detroit possessed such quality.  Then, I learned that influencial Japanese automotive executives organized their efforts to have a few suitable hot spots that reminded them of home.

tastybits
tastybits

Carl,

I am having trouble following you, though I am intrigued. You are correct, while there are many factors, sushi rice should absolutely be served at body temperature. Trouble is no one in Houston (or US for that matter) makes exceptional sushi rice on the level of Urasawa, Yasuda and a select few others in LA/NYC. Rice at Kata Robata is usually good and I believe would be great if it was a smaller operation focused on the sushi bar only, but for the most part the rice is just wrong all over the country. 

Are you really saying Zushi makes proper rice on the same level of mid-range places in Tokyo (say above $100, but under $200) with appropriate fish quality to match? If so, I am in. 

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Actually I should have said it's all about the fish (not just the food). I am a sashimi lover first, a nigiri lover second, and i eat rolls for fun but they are just rolls, not sushi. When i think sushi i think fish. How fresh is the fish? What is its texture? If it has even the slightest "fishy" aroma my stomach revolts. If it is slightly mushy or lacking bite it is not fresh. Then we get into varieties of fish available, the way it's cut (size and thickness), and consistency. What I've found over the years is if you like the way a sushi chef cuts his fish, you will like whatever he makes, so find a sushi chef who makes sushi you love and stick by him, and you will always be happy. My favorite sushi chef in Houston for the past 10 years has been Manabu Horiuchi (executive chef at Kata Robata). Occasionally I will venture elsewhere but I always find myself comparing my experiences to the ones at Kata, and I always end up going back to Kata...

Ko
Ko

Carl, I stand corrected.  It's skin temperature, not room temperature.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Ko, regrettably, you are incorrect.  Sushi Rice should never be 'room temperature.'  75-78 degrees for sushi rice is absolutely unacceptable.  Approximate body temperature (90 - 95 degrees) is optimum.

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Clemsonfudge, it IS relative and subjective.  Many sushi lovers focus on Fusion Sushi.  Traditional Maki, Uramaki and Temaki doesn't appeal to them.  By recommending a traditional Japanese restaurant (Like Teppay), they wouldn't find it impressive and mistakenly rate it poorly.  Honestly, they are in the wrong place.  However, a true traditional sushi lover (who might appreciate the Japanese specials from Kata Robata or Kubo's) would roll their eyes in digust at Crave, the Fish or Tops Sushi.  In order to pick your personal best, you need to aim at the proper target before releasing the arrow.

Ko
Ko

Especially when it comes to sushi, it's all about the food.  I suppose it's tough to judge because there is such a partition between traditional Japanese sushi (nigiri and simple rolls) and the Americanized brethren (any rolls named after animals/cities or with fried anything).  I think you'd have two very different lists depending on which you are judging.

For example, for traditional sushi, if the rice is significantly above or below room temperature, it's an automatic failure.  I don't think rice temperature matters much for those like Americanized sushi.  Traditional sushi is about balance of flavors between fish and rice.  Americanized sushi is usually about achieving more flavor.

Many of us who prefer the former cringe when spicy sauce is put on sushi.  It's like putting A1 sauce on a good cut of steak (which I realize a lot of people do enjoy).

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Top 10 to me implies the best. And for me the best can be anything (price wise, location-wise, service-wise, ambience-wise) as long as the food is good. It's all about the food for me. I think there's a difference between Top 10 sushi values vs Top 10 sushi, which was what I tried to convey in my previous comment.

Clemsonfudge
Clemsonfudge

So if it's all relative and subjective, why bother?

Carl Rosa
Carl Rosa

Mai, it all depends on what you value 'great' to be.  While some people value sushi as 'High Quality,' others judge sushi based on leaving the restaurant with a full stomach.  Others rate a great sushi establishment by low prices while others grade the sushi based on its authenticity to traditional cuisine.  It's all based on perspectives.  But I will tell you that I rarely visit Oishii and truthfully it would not make my top ten.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Thanks for the great perspective and breakdown on sushi, Carl Rosa! 

KS - I know that people love Oishii, but all I can say from my one and only experience at Oishii is that it is nothing more than cheap sushi. I'm sorry, but cheap shouldn't be enough to get it in the Top 10, should it? 

MadgeManicurist
MadgeManicurist

Ginza has a cool secret gambling room that reminds me of the Ginza district in Tokyo.

tastybits
tastybits

Love Teppay. It has the most delicious parking lot. 

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