First Look at Michiru Sushi: Affordable Luxury in Greenway Plaza

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Tuna-on-tuna at Michiru Sushi, one of the chef's own creations.
Michiru Sushi is the other high-profile sushi restaurant which opened recently, not to be confused with Chris Kinjo's MF Sushi on Westheimer. I haven't been to MF Sushi yet, and I'm keen to dine there. Although reviews so far have been mixed, one thing has been noted across the board: MF Sushi is quite pricey.

So it was with great relief that I found myself indulging in high-quality fare for far less money at Michiru Sushi this past Sunday night, including a dish which I've been raving about like a madwoman for a few days now: tuna dumplings.

As soon as our server -- a warm, bubbly woman who knew the menu inside and out -- explained the concept of the tuna dumpling, I was sold. Spicy tuna belly, shrimp, "crunch," and avocado inside a huge dumpling made of...wait for it...more tuna. It looked like the beautiful bastard offspring of a crunch roll and a soup dumpling, and I was smitten. We were given spoons to tear the dumplings apart with, and I couldn't believe how easily the paper-thin tuna parted to reveal the contents inside.

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Sashimi and seaweed salad served in a delicate bowl made of ice.
Michiru Sushi doesn't make claims as an authentic Japanese sushi restaurant. It's owned, after all, by Chinese -- like nearly every other sushi place in town. But what it does do is offer a very good selection of traditional Japanese favorites like sigh-inducingly fresh uni and Japanese red snapper alongside Americanized rolls and a short menu of house specialties that -- like those tuna dumplings -- make Michiru stand out from the crowd.

Michiru's owners also run the popular restaurant of the same name in Webster, and the Greenway Plaza spot is their second location. The menu is the same, although the atmosphere is slightly more upscale. And at the Greenway Plaza location, you'll find Oichi-san -- a Chinese sushi chef who trained in Japan for a decade, and in New York City for almost two.

There's a lot of art to what Oichi-san does, from the simple roses he creates out of curled pieces of barely-pink snapper to the bowls made out of ice in which the seaweed and sashimi salads are served. And although techniques such as these are by no means unique to Michiru, they lend a gentle touch of luxury to an otherwise simple, inexpensive meal.

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I used to think uni was tongue, before I'd ever eaten the stuff.
That snapper was a special of the night, as was a limited supply of uni. And what terrific little bites they both were: the snapper still crunchy and warmed by a very light drizzle of spicy ponzu sauce, the uni buttery and briny-sweet. It was my dining companion's first taste of the sea urchin roe and I warned him: "You're getting spoiled tonight. Most uni in Houston isn't this good."

His eyes widened at the way the uni looked on its fat bulwark of rice and seaweed -- like a stack of bright orange tongues, complete with tiny tastebuds, plucked from the mouths of some mythical creatures -- but was surprised to find the roe so creamy and so sweet.

Just as quickly, however, he was on to two of Michiru's enormous, American-style rolls (although he admitted later he couldn't decide which he'd liked best -- the uni or the rolls). One, a nightly special, was full of Dungeness crab for $13. The other was a "Texas roll," one of those interesting specialty rolls that's offered at sushi restaurants across the state (and even outside our borders), but which differs entirely from place to place.

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The Texas roll.
Here at Michiru, the only thing Texan about the $12 Texas roll is its topper of thinly sliced jalapeños. "The chef will put serrano peppers on top, if you ask," our server noted. The rest of the roll is filled out with spicy tuna -- perhaps in a further attempt to appeal to the Texan palate for spice -- and avocado, then covered with torched salmon, yellowtail, white tuna and more of that "crunch," which I'm not sure has a proper name despite its ubiquity on sushi menus. Both rolls were huge, and well worth their price.

In fact, everything at Michiru was surprisingly well-priced, given the area and the lovely setting inside, where a wall of water trickles gently down taut wire in a floor-to-ceiling wooden enclosure that separates the blue-hued bar from the rest of the mahogany-toned restaurant.

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Those savory bites of uni weren't even the most expensive thing we ordered that night -- they were only $12. The tuna dumplings at $14 and the Japanese snapper at $16 were the priciest, and I honestly could have finished a meal with just those two items. Along with the two rolls, the uni and a sprightly salad of sashimi, seaweed and pickled vegetables, we completely over-ordered and were faced with a mountain of fish.

Luckily, we had all night to spend at the utterly relaxed sushi bar, eating and watching the show: me watching Oichi-san and his two chefs cleave fish quietly and with contented, relaxed concentration, my dining companion watching the NFL game on a flat-screen that hung nearly silent on one wall and polishing off a bottle of nigori sake. I couldn't have asked for a better close to a hectic weekend than this.



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Location Info

Michiru Sushi

3800 SW Freeway, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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22 comments
julius
julius

Michiru = very good stuff

FRL713
FRL713

For the record, I had an excellent night at the MF Sushi bar and can't wait to return. The sushi was very well executed including several great off the menu selections.  It is traditional in its approach to the food, which I like.  A bit more pricey than Teppay, my usual spot, but a great addition to the area.

Michiru sounds fun, I need to try some of those funky appetizer creations.  Looks like a nice date spot for bringing less familiar/adventurous sushi diners.  Thanks for the pics.

CarlRosa
CarlRosa

Katharine,  thank you for the review.  While I was successful in arranging a dining event at Michiru before the end of the year, I have not reviewed it myself....but intend to soon.  I can say that I was impressed by the interest of their management.  I've spent a few hours speaking to them and detected a genuine interest in quality before popularity.  So I'm eager to get back in there, order a full sushi dinner and set my notepad on the table.  Again, thanks for the review.  One quick question - your opinion of the sushi rice?

Daphne26
Daphne26

groovy words and pics. little known fact: they are offering 15% off food at greenway to celebrate the grand opening. until middle january anyway. and whoever put their wine list together did a good job

fergie
fergie

Thanks for the peek inside Katharine, it's near my office and I've been meaning to try Michiru. I noticed that Patrise Shuttlesworth chimed in on their FB page, saying "Hands down, the best sushi in Houston". It's time I stop procrastinating and drop in.

Biltmore
Biltmore

Those tuna dumplings look salaciously good, like a geisha's bosom, I can't wait to try them. Sounds like Michiru offers a decent mix of creative dishes and hard to find seafood alongside the usual suspects. I've heard they were selling fresh Kumamoto oysters for about $3....anyway, my mission today is having some of that uni!

dunstan
dunstan

@FRL713 From visiting a few times, I think you'll be happy either way, going adventurous or looking for more familiar stuff. I've taken my uncle who's more into rolls and tends toward beef over fish, and he raved over a roll called C2 or something, made with beef tenderloin. On the other hand, my wife is a snob, a stickler for stuff you can't find elsewhere,  and she appreciated the sashimi which included that night blue marlin, whole aji mackerel (bones fried as a bonus), uni and amberjack. She demanded that I try the egg sushi, and admired it, saying it was a benchmark of great sushi. Also a king salmon and ocean trout, both of which were a beautiful orange hue, well marbled with fatty white veins, about the same in color but flavors completely different. It was a great experience for us all, and shockingly reasonable when I got the check.

blliejean
blliejean

@CarlRosa  

Question Carl: you mentioned that you plan to review Michiru soon, and mentioned that you hung out with the management for a couple hours interviewing them and discussing stuff. Given that they now know you personally, and I assume your preferences as well, how do you expect to be treated when you arrive and plop down your notepad? Do you detect a sense of travesty in this arrangement?

jirosan
jirosan

@CarlRosa I was amazed by some of the sushi I tried there: a wild salmon from New Zealand so fatty it tasted like it was smoked, blue marlin, blue fin, amberjack, live scallop, fatty tuna. But what amazed me was the quality of the sushi rice: consistently served at body temperature, instead of room temperature, which is a common mistake, it was a bit toothsome, with a slight vinegar flavor and hint of sweetness. Just right. And it balanced perfectly with the fish.

To me, finding weekly specials there has been a lot of fun. Makes me want to go fishing more often.

What did you think of the sushi rice, Carl Rosa?


CarlRosa
CarlRosa

Daphne, in your opinion....what makes a good wine list?  I know sushi very well...but sadly, I don't know what a great wine list would look like  Can you detect a good list quickly or are there a few factors that you look for?  I know nothing about wine, so I'd like to know what you think. 

finneganwakeman
finneganwakeman

@fergie would be cool if both Carl Rosa and Patrise Shuttlesworth showed up on the same night

CarlRosa
CarlRosa

blliejean, you are absolutely correct.  And now, I must admit (at the risk of sounding silly) that I am usually noticed now when I enter a sushi spot for a meal, review.  Unless the restaurant is brand new (like MF Sushi) I can't just sit down and rate it.  I'll review meal entirely based on favoritism.  They know what I'm looking for.  So here's what I do....I ask a friend/sushi club member to walk into the establishment and order the meal.  About 10 minutes later, I get a text on my phone saying 'it's here.'  I walk in.  My friend stands up.  We switch seats and I eat/rate.  :)

Plimpton
Plimpton

@jirosan @CarlRosa Michiru's rice is exemplary and I've witnessed the owner and sushi man Andy being very particular about it.

I tend to view the rice as important because it's one of the few things that the restaurant can control; a restaurant is at the mercy of nature and purveyors for ingredients like fish and seafood, but rice is a constant, a comfy denominator that will remain good or bad despite other ingredients.

CarlRosa
CarlRosa

Sounds outstanding, jirosan.  Thanks for the information!  I have not reviewed it yet, so I am unaware of their sushi rice quality/flavor and consistency.  But now, from what you're telling me, I'm looking forward to it.  I always hope to find an outstanding sushi spot.  Nothing would make be happier than making a tough decision between a handful of outstanding sushi restaurants in Houston.  :)

Daphne26
Daphne26

@CarlRosa Well, good question Carl. I look for balance in the list overall, but personally in this case I like a selection that offers a number of wines that balance acidity with just enough fruit to complement the sushi. Michiru goes farther than most Japanese places in offering blends, instead of just well-known straight varietals like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabs and merlots. They offer bubbles and blends that work well.  BUT, I wish they would offer more French/Euro whites like a Savennieres, Vouvray, Albarino, Alsatian Pinot Gris and even a good Soave. I don't want oak, and I don't want some funk from Gewurz, just dry, balanced and interesting. 

CarlRosa
CarlRosa

There's a great deal of study that goes into a spot long before I actually sit down for a meal.  When I decide that I'm going to select a sushi spot for a review, I (typically) visit it for a drink at the bar a few days before, spend about thirty minutes there, taking notes.  Years ago, when I first reviewed Sushi Jin, I sat with two friends and merely ordered coffee while they enjoyed a meal.  I took notes of the ambiance/service/cleanliness without taking a bite.  Then, I study their menu in great detail if it is on their website.  By the time I sit down for the meal, I've done a great deal of homework.  Here's the best part....the rice is crucial.  Regardless when I pop in, they can't make a new batch.  They must serve me what's currently prepared.  No way to augment the quality.  I also ask a handful of questions while eating.  By the time the bill arrives, I have visited the restaurant more than once for the review, studied the entire menu, taken lots of photos beforehand and have answers to a series of questions from the chef and staff.  That's why my reviews are so detailed, typically.  Hope that helps answer the question.

Hillary263
Hillary263

@CarlRosa Interesting subterfuge, gotta admit. But if you just pop in when the food's plopped down, then how would you credibly rate the service, hospitality and the other stuff that graded in your reviews? Just from the point when you came in to meet a friend who has already ordered, and maybe been snapped at, or hit on, or misled by the staff? Hard to notice that stuff if you're hiding outside.

CarlRosa
CarlRosa

I can tell you, honestly, there isn't a 'going wrong' with sushi anymore.  I'm a traditionalist, so I prefer a pure and simplistic approach to it.  That's where I stand while attempting to educate others from that standpoint/view.  I travel overseas as a guide to Japan three times a year.  Being a 'fusion sushi lover' would not work well in Miyajima, I assure you. But to each their own these days.  However, to answer your question, most people aren't aware of what they are eating.  Little do they know, they're spending more while getting less.  That's my experience.

DominicWalsh
DominicWalsh

@CarlRosa Carl - In your opinion, where do people tend to go wrong with sushi?  What might they be missing that you're likely to notice in a sushi meal?

CarlRosa
CarlRosa

Plimpton, I not only agree with your opinion (the importance of the rice) but I will admit that it is much more important than most sushi lovers might appreciate. 

When I had the great fortune of sitting next to a notable sushi critic in Tokyo, he ordered a full plate of sushi, removed all the fish/egg and spent about 5 minutes merely reviewing the rice.  Then, about two years later, I met Ole Mourtisen during a group dinner (he's a professor of biophysics and author of an incredible sushi book).  He treated the rice almost the exact same way.  The rice is paramount to quality sushi.  Then, the harmony of flavor comes next. 

Great comment, Plimpton.

dunstan
dunstan

@Daphne26 @CarlRosa I'd agree with that Daphne26, but go one step farther: if you're hosting someone who doesn't really know wines intimately but relies instead on big, publicized names that were Wine Spectator 90 scores or top picks from Robert Parker, they stock those too, to impress folks like my uncle who eats beef at a Japanese place. Personally I can't see drinking red with sushi or sashimi, but reds seem to be the end-all among new wine drinkers and I noticed lots of folks going red with pink.

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