In Kyoto, Chef Ito learned to cook in correspondence with the seasons. He brings those lessons to Kubo's, where his specials shift from month to month, allowing only brief glimpses of sautéed Chilean sea bass and sayori nigiri. He follows these entrees with desserts such as green-tea tiramisu, or the Monkeys Gone Mad—a fried banana drizzled with chocolate.
At Sushi Rock, each dish is a colorful work of art, whether it's a multi-hued rainbow roll or a bright green caterpillar roll, complete with edible "eyes". Chefs treat each dish with the same artful attention, using only fresh veggies and seafood to ensure their sushi and sashimi tastes just as good as it looks. Diners can mix and match sashimi to alternate between thick slices of peppery tuna and smoky cuts of salmon, or order up sushi rolls stuffed with octopus, flying fish eggs, and fresh water eel, to name a few. Tataki dishes offer a change of pace with cooked options such as seared albacore and red snapper.
The sushi artisans at Azuma Sushi & Robata Bar assemble innovative Japanese dishes and artfully plated, seaweed-wrapped rolls during lunch and dinner hours. In Azuma’s signature roll ($11)—the first listed on its extensive menu—tuna, salmon, and whitefish get to know avocado and chili oil by virtue of sharing the same seaweed wrap, an orientation activity popularized in the Navy. The John Doe roll ($14) belies its name with bursts of spicy yellowtail and pepper tuna, and Azuma’s signature gazpacho ($6) cools palates with a soup of salmon, mango, avocado, and tomato juice. For hot dishes, the restaurant's waiters serve up a whole, grilled squid ($9), its 200 yards blanketed in spicy miso and ginger soy sauce. Robata-grilled specialties include eggplant skewers coated in a sweet, miso glaze ($3) and Alaskan black cod simmering in a miso marinade ($14).
If you had any doubt about the precision of Manabu Horiuchi’s knife, look no further than his certification to prepare poisonous pufferfish. Though he sticks to safer meats at Kata Robata, his creations are no less daring: skewers of Texas beef slow-cooked for 72 hours, tapas of miso-crusted bone marrow, and amberjack sashimi with foie gras.
Houstonites rave about Nippon's pork ramen, a heady mix of al dente noodles, bamboo shoots, seaweed, sprouts, and egg in miso broth. Still, it's the unknown that draws many a guest to the decades-old establishment. The Houston Press reports that requesting the Japanese menu is a surefire way to surprise your palate with exotic, tapas-style plates.
Zake's massive menu is packed with Asian-fusion cuisine, hibachi entrees, classic sushi, sashimi, and specialty rolls. Fans of fish out of water can start with a signature appetizer such as Zake Tartar, an aquatic amalgamation of salmon, tuna, and white fish weaved together with a fiery ponzu and bedecked with wasabi aioli ($10). Sample the selection of more than 50 sushi options with the sushi deluxe, an assortment of nine sushi pieces chosen by Zake's master chef plus a spicy tuna roll ($23). Artfully-prepared dishes from outside the sushi-sphere include a savory thai curry soup with beef, chicken, or shrimp, thai basil, and seasonal veggies over a choice of steamed rice or noodles ($11), and the hibachi bento boxes such as the rib-eye steak, grilled up and accompanied by a California roll, shrimp tempura, gyoza, a spring roll, soup, salad, and house dessert ($25).