Here, Eat This: A Beginner's Guide to Japanese Cuisine (That's Not Sushi or Ramen)

Categories: Here, Eat This

Photo by Troy Fields
Cafe Kubo's.
Where to get started:

Cafe Kubo's: One of the hippest and yet most laid-back places to spend an evening in Chinatown is at Cafe Kubo's, the younger and far more mod sister of the staid Kubo's in Rice Village. Instead of focusing on sushi, however, Cafe Kubo's offers a much more traditional Japanese fast-food menu of dishes like curried pork cutlets over rice, bento boxes of fried chicken and bowls of tonkatsu ramen that complement its casual vibe. Happy hour runs every day of the week here, and the food and drink specials make it a huge draw in the evenings.

Kubo's: The second-story location in the Rice Village can be difficult to find, but if you're a sushi lover, Kubo's is worth the hunt. While chef Hajime Kubokawa -- or Kubo-san, for short -- is no longer at the sushi restaurant he helped found with owner Yoichi 'Yogi' Ueno, nor is Manabu Horiuchi (who is setting the sushi world on fire at Kata Robata), 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's come through since the place opened in 2002. Try the daily specials for interesting fish finds like idiot fish, or order the enormous sashimi boat if you've got a group of people to impress. On the non-sushi side, the chawanmushi is the best in town and the bar scene is lively when filled with Japanese businessmen in the evenings.

Kata Robata: Sushi chef Hori-san is serving some stellar sushi and stunningly inventive dishes here in Upper Kirby. Granted, the fabulous stuff doesn't come cheap. But if you're on a budget, go to Kata Robata during happy hour when you can eat inexpensive grilled dishes off the robata and drink cheap beer.

Genji: If you're looking for a good time and fantastic Japanese bar food, Genji is the only show in town. Set to the soundtrack of some serious (and sometimes seriously painful) karaoke, Genji attracts businessmen and twentysomethings alike. Menu highlights include teba gyoza (stuffed chicken wings), onigiri (rice balls), beef kushiyaki and yakisoba (pan-fried noodles with a fried egg on top).

Nippon: Nippon has been serving Montrose residents (and expat Japanese) their sushi for decades, and has never failed in that time to serve the freshest fish it can get. The uni here always tastes like a buttery gulp of the sea, and standards like fatty salmon nigiri are marbled and thickly cut. The rolls are also predictably good, like the spider roll stuffed with soft-shell crab, and so is the pork-thickened ramen.

Shabu House: Shabu shabu is a Japanese soup not unlike the Chinese hot pot. At Shabu House, you can sit at one of the 28 places at the horseshoe-shaped bar. In front of each seat is a burner with a pot of boiling broth in which you cook your food. The broth is made with kelp and tastes like miso. Choose ultra-thin slices of certified Angus beef, a seafood platter or, best of all, a combo of both. All soups come with ample veggies and glass noodles. This is a great place to go with a crowd.

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It's refreshing to see an article about Japanese cuisine not relating to sushi or ramen.  :)  Can't say that I'd agree with every point made, but I applaud your effort and willingness to educate and explain while pushing lesser-known topics to the surface.  I've enjoyed reading every 'Beginner's Guide.' 


No Okonomiyaki?  Looked hi and low throughout Houston and can only find it in one place: Kaneyama (which was pretty good).  Plus Japanese Curry too!


A few corrections:

1) Agedashi is pronounced ah-geh-dah-shee, not ah-guh-dah-shee.  Also, it's followed by: doh-fu.

2) Umami is not earthy, at all.  It's savory. 

3) Chawan does not mean small bowl.  It means tea bowl.

4) Karaage is pronounced kah-rah-ah-geh, not "car-RAH-gay."

5) Tonkatsu is not a frying technicque.

6) Katsu-don does not use its vinegar-y sauce (which is actually the Japanese variation of the Worcestershire sauce).  Instead, onions and eggs are cooked together with dashi, mirin, and soy sauce to provide the katsu-don sauce.

7) Umeshu is pronounced uh-meh-shoo, not woo-MAY-shoo.

8) Noone in Japan considers sake "rice beer."  It is more common to drink beer than sake in Japan.

gossamersixteen topcommenter

The best place to have this is in your own home, made to order. Now if I could only find a decent bottle of tokatsu sauce to compliment my pork cutlet.. :)


The "where" doesn't really match the article. Nippon is suggested for sushi, but the title clearly states this is not an article about sushi. Shabu House is suggested, but this is the only time the dish is described. It should have been in the "body" of the article. And no suggestion was offered for the very first dish. Fortunately, I already know where to find the best age tofu in Houston, but I guess your readers are out of luck.

Mitsy Marshall Parton
Mitsy Marshall Parton

Okonomiyaki and I've asked a million times where to find them in Houston. :/


@unblinkingeye You can also find okonomiyaki at Sushi King on Kirby and Alabama, which makes sense because it and Kaneyama used to be owned by the same people. The taste is pretty close to Kansai-fu.


@tinyhands So basically you bitch that there are no suggestions or that you disagree, then make little to none of your own.  Good work.


@Mitsy Marshall Parton Kaneyama on Westheimer and Sushi King on Alabama and Kirby are the two places I've found it.

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