Nigiri and maki from Imperia
Craving some soy sauce and raw fish? Austin is best known for its Tex-Mex and barbecue, but it also has a surprisingly good sushi scene. From creative rolls to killer happy hours, our city has plenty of choices next time you have a hankering for Japanese.
Texas may be the land of cattle, but that doesn’t mean you’re confined to steak and ribs while living in the Lone Star State. I happen to be fairly obsessed with sushi, and in my time here I’ve tried out myriad Japanese joints, searching for the freshest fish and the choicest happy hours. Austin has plenty of sushi to offer beyond the famous Uchi and Uchiko – next time you’re in the mood for a spicy tuna roll, check out one of these options.
My favorite sushi is at Komé. This simple building on Airport is bustling and colorful on the inside, a slightly noisy and seemingly always packed restaurant complete with a sushi bar slinging some of the best seafood in town. Along with plenty of fresh nigiri and sashimi, Komé has a surprisingly affordable and thrillingly creative roll menu. Try their Texas Surf and Turf roll: tempura shrimp, beef, candied jalapeño, avocado, cilantro, and Texas green sauce. Not exactly traditional, but it’s amazingly satisfying.
Maru on Burnet is a very no-frills Japanese restaurant – I probably drove by it a million times before stopping in for dinner one night. If you’re in the area and looking for a quick, fresh sushi fix, this is a good option. Besides your average rolls and nigiri choices, Maru is known for their J-Bomb, a deep fried jalapeno stuffed with cream cheese, spicy tuna, and crab salad.
While the stretch of North Lamar housing DK Sushi isn’t the most glamourous area of Austin, I encourage anyone who loves karaoke to swing by at 7:30p.m. on a Thursday night for one of the most entertaining (and sometimes slightly offensive) spectacles around. The fact that DK also offers surprisingly stellar sushi is just the cherry on top of the kooky sundae.
The best sushi happy hour I’ve found here is at Kenichi downtown on 5th and Colorado. All the food on their entire bar menu is 50% off all night on Sunday and Monday and 4:30p.m. through 7:00p.m the rest of the week. This means you can enjoy a dinner of edamame, miso soup, and a couple rolls for under $20. Not bad at all! It’s not four-star gourmet luxury seafood, but the fish is fresh and the service is friendly and quick. Definitely a great value.
Outside of Kenichi, another good downtown happy hour is Piranha Killer Sushi on 2nd and San Jacinto. Enjoy reverse happy hour from 4:00p.m. through 6:00p.m. Monday through Sunday as well as the last hour of business on Friday and Saturday. Sake, wine, beer, martinis, and plenty of food options like chicken spring rolls, wasabi crusted salmon rolls, and mussels in saffron sauce.
I haven’t been able to personally try out the happy hour at Imperia, yet another trendy downtown sushi spot, but I thought I’d pass along the word that they’re debuting a new happy hour with two for one sushi and $5.00 martinis from 4:30p.m. through 7:00p.m., coinciding with the opening of their new club, Bambu Nightclub and Lounge. I’ll be checking out the new Imperia menu and nightclub this week and I hope to have a glowing review of their reinvention.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a secret favorite of mine: How Do You Roll, an Austin-based sushi franchise. It’s basically the Subway sandwiches of sushi; you stand at the counter and point to what you’d like as the employee on the other side rolls a custom maki for you. It’s obviously not the most authentic, but I’m not afraid to admit that it’s one of my favorite fast-casual lunchtime treats! How Do You Roll is affordable and offers plenty of fun options for your personal roll. Don’t judge.