Specialty Rolls and Customer Service Make The Blue Fish a Solid Washington Ave. Destination

Categories: On the Menu

rainforest roll.jpg
Photos by Mai Pham
The Rain Forest roll is topped with spicy tuna and salmon, with shrimp tempura in the middle, and glazed with eel sauce.
See more photos of The Blue Fish in our slideshow.

Despite the popularity of sushi, many of us still cringe at the idea of eating raw fish. I remember the first time I tried it, during my early twenties. No amount of coaxing, reassurance or gentle prodding could get me to taste it until my colleague, who'd been eating sushi for years, turned on some intense peer pressure.

When I finally took my first bite -- a deliciously plump, exceedingly fresh yellowtail (hamachi) belly sashimi -- I tasted something unlike anything I'd ever tried before. The flesh was firm, not slimy. The taste was almost sweet, with not even the slightest hint of "fishiness." I've been hooked ever since.

The thing about sushi is, once you've had the good stuff, you really can't go back. Even if you haven't had the really high-end, blow-your-mind sushi that I've experienced on occasion, though, you should still be able to tell if it's good or bad.

Enter The Blue Fish on Washington, the subject of this week's cafe review (I filled in for Katharine Shilcutt), which started successfully in Dallas with four locations before expanding to Houston. I'd tried its sister restaurant in The Bayou Place and liked it enough to visit the Washington location with expectations of good sushi.

bluefish sushi.jpg
Our order of Japanese red snapper (tai) and almaco jack (kanpachi)
On the first occasion, I went with a friend who was new enough to the sushi game that she didn't realize, even after eating it, whether it was supposed to taste the way it did. After her first bite of each of our raw fish dishes -- especially the not-so-good ones -- she'd look at me and ask, "What do you think?"

Her instincts were right on in each instance. I didn't need to be a sushi expert to agree with her that some of the sushi and sashimi we had wasn't as good as it should be. Our almaco jack (kampachi) sushi had this almost slick, powdery mouthfeel, and a kind of fishy taste to it. Likewise, my beloved hamachi belly sashimi did not taste like the sweet, delicate fish that I'd come to know and love.

bluefish uni.jpg
Sea urchin (uni) sushi
On another occasion, the sea urchin (uni) was heaped on in a large pile, but didn't look or taste as good as it should. With high-quality uni, the pieces look like a yellow tongue, with a slight split down the middle and a noticeably pebbled texture. This uni looked like a gelatinous blob of yellow, with no visible texture I could see, and on the taste had a slight fishiness to it as well.

The Blue Fish also offers appetizers, but on the whole, the highlight was the rolls. Over my three visits, I ordered three different specialty rolls, and enjoyed them all. The Rainforest roll was crunchy and sweet, very easy to eat and share. The SoBe roll was beautiful to look at and tasted just as beautiful, and the Volcano roll was rich with a very generous portion of baked scallop in cream sauce poured over California rolls. All three would make great plates to share among friends.

bluefish sobe.jpg
Sobe, or South Beach roll, has cucumber instead of seaweed for its wrapper
Another highlight was the service. I liked that the servers knew enough about the dishes to make recommendations, and it's thanks to them that I ordered the rolls that I did. When the manager noticed that we didn't eat the sashimi, he quickly took action to remove it from our bill, offering each of us a $10 gift card to return.

I wish that other restaurants had policies as clear-cut as The Blue Fish's when it comes to customer satisfaction. So often, you'll ask a server what they recommend, and they can't answer because they haven't tried the dishes. And then there are the servers who get that deer-in-the-headlights look if you tell them that something's wrong (oversalted, overcooked, etc.), servers who ignore an obviously uneaten dish or fail to communicate to the manager when the customer expresses dissatisfaction. At The Blue Fish, they had managers regularly walking the floor, asking customers if everything was all right, if there was anything they could do.

scallop sashimi.jpg
It's a good thing we returned, or I wouldn't have been able to try this scallop sashimi, which was very good.
In the end, while there were definitely dishes that could have been better, what I remember the most is The Blue Fish's willingness to make things right. That alone makes this place a good stop before a night of Washington Avenue antics or for a post-event bite to eat (it's open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays). In fact, after my friend and I stopped by late one Saturday evening, she didn't rave about the four-hour opera we'd just seen at the Wortham. As we said our goodbyes, she told me, "Our meal was the highlight of the night!"



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Location Info

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The Blue Fish

5820 Washington Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

The Blue Fish

550 Texas St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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29 comments
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FluerieJ
FluerieJ

I've been to the one in Delray Beach, Florida and remember a tiny Russian dude managing the place. Is it the same?

Fishik
Fishik

TINY? yes iam still here! I am so happy to be in Houston! The sushi scene is way more aggressivehere than in Florida. The old Jewish Folk just don't eat shell fish!

You mustmiss the Ahi Tower .

DLehmann
DLehmann

Shell fish? 'The old Jewish Folk just don't eat shell fish?'

Shell fish is what percentage of your menu? Maybe 5%?C'mom, why did Delray really bite the dust? Just be honest.

DLehmann
DLehmann

Thanks Mr. Fish! You are a true mensch!

Fishik
Fishik

Some things are just the way they are. Absolutely nothing specific. Several factors did not fit our recipe. High rent was one of those major factors. Area was to seasonal for consistent business. We do have planty of shell fish on the menu. We use fresh crab and shrimp in our rolls.

Everestbabystep
Everestbabystep

So there is a location in Florida? What about Carolina?I know I've seen this little Fiddler on the Roof in more locales than Dallas, Houston and Florida...am I wrong? (B.tw, he's the best in the biz, if it's the same fella)

Henri2
Henri2

What happened to the location in Delray Beach? I'm so sad.

The Blue Fish
The Blue Fish

 We no longer operate the location in Florida. Yes we originally opened a location in Delray beach in 2007 but it is no longer The Blue Fish. We only have 6 locations. 3 in Dallas and 1 in Allen and 2 in Houston.  Nothing at this time in Carolina's.  The Blue Fish is a family owned and operated, since 1998 in the best state of Texas.  YEE HAA !

Kandinsky
Kandinsky

I've never ever heard of this place, and you say it opened last year? I know the rest like Miyako, Azuma, Kata Robata, Sushi King, Zake, Oiishi, Kaneyama etc. Where are they hiding? Thanks for the info.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Kandinsky, you DO know a lot of the sushi places around town. :) This one is a new construction on Washington Avenue, right next to Benjy's on Washington. They also have a sister restaurant at the corner of the Bayou Place, next to Sundance Movie Theater, which opened earlier last year -- a convenient pre-theater/pre-concert/pre-movie stop.

Natalie34
Natalie34

He might to get the word out that he's here, and open for business. There are about 150 sushi joints in the Houston metroplex. 

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

Not to be confused with Blue Fish House next to Hobbit Cafe on Richmond.  Different owners.

Terry Alexander
Terry Alexander

 That sushi looks almost too pretty to eat. I would gladly pay a little more for presentations like that.

Great photos.TA

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Thanks for the photo props! Good photos need a good subject. Props to them for composing photo-worthy, pretty dishes. If it looks good, it tastes better, IMHO.  

VigodaA
VigodaA

They're a discount sushi place aren't they? I always see 2 for 1 Sushi  banners hanging from their walls or windows. That frightens me sorta.

Fishik
Fishik

We did havea 2 for 1 sushi banner when we first open. The special is during lunch when weoffer 4 pieces for the price of 2. It is only good for nigiri pieces. It provedto be very successful in our environment and down town location is becomingvery popular amongst the local lunch goers. We also offer the best Bentocombinations in the city ! Mai you must come for lunch ! See you than.

P.S VigodaA You willsee the sign back during summer month, but don't be scared !

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

It wasn't discount when I was there. I didn't see any of those signs. There were in-house specials for drinks ($1 sake and $5 martini nights) and happy hour daily $4-$7.

Kelli
Kelli

Great food, terrible portion size, incredibly expensive.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Glad you liked the food. Do you mean the portion size is small or large? I thought the portions were quite large, but you're right, I wouldn't consider it cheap. 

Hugh Ramsey
Hugh Ramsey

Good sushi rarely is...

carriebwc
carriebwc

i think blue fish has a great happy hour, and i am not a happy hour chaser.  i just happened to be there for happy hour one day, and thought it was a great deal.

Kelli
Kelli

Not true, there are many great sushi places for good, affordable prices, and I went for their happy hour and was totally blown away by the prices.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

 Yes, way back in the day, I was a systems implementation consultant and specialized in program management.

Gifford1
Gifford1

wow, you were a software consultant? hi-tech or something?

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I totally agree. When I was a consultant in the Silicon Valley, they used to give me a $42 daily per diem for all my meals. My colleagues rarely spent the entire per diem, but I'd regularly blow the whole thing on a great sushi dinner (typical tab about $70 for just my dinner) -- and this was more than 10 years ago.

Gremillion
Gremillion

I don't think the location at Bayou Center will make it, but I really like the Washington location, despite my dislike for the Washington Ave scene. The Russian manager is really helpful and knows his stuff.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

I agree. The Russian manager is quite the asset.

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