The first time I heard the name of this place, I thought about how utterly unimaginative it was; it was located in the Uptown/Galleria area and it served Japanese cuisine of the sushi variety. I love sushi as it is my one big weakness which is why I’m essentially a sushitarian, but I never thought I would get the chance to go; I don’t usually eat out and it’s a bit on the expensive end of the spectrum. However, this changed when I learned about Houston Restaurant Weeks.
Basically, over 100 fine restaurants (and 1 cooking school) in the Houston area signed up to offer a 3 to 4-course meal for the month of August for only $35 per person. On top of that, $5 of that amount will go to the Houston Food Bank. Even though my diet is a little more flexible than the strict vegetarian, the exception of raw seafood still limits my choices, so after one of my foodie friends told me about HRW, I had to look up each and every restaurant that was participating and I made a list of restaurants that served vegetarian-friendly dishes or sushi. From that list, my friends decided upon Uptown Sushi and a reservation later, we found ourselves there enjoying their great food.
We arrived a little after six. There were a few seated tables, but it was barely halfway full, though this changed by the time we left when almost every table was occupied. The interior was clearly up-scale, which made me feel slightly self conscious after I launched myself at a friend for the biggest hug I could give a split second after the door closed behind us, but they were professional about it, though I can’t say the same for what they were thinking. A hostess led us to our table; a booth with comfortable seating along the wall. There was also an elevated seating area. Half of the walls were tiled and the other half, curtained.
Although their HRW menu was posted online, when we got there, they gave us their regular menus along with the HRW menu. We obviously just ordered from the HRW menu, but there was a close call when my two HRW buddies spotted a plate of Kobe Beef being brought out. The fact that our server took the wrappers from our chopsticks and folded them into chopstick stands for us was a nice touch.
Once we ordered our 4 dishes for our 4 courses, they all came out in relatively quick succession. And so, I present the First Courses. The Asian Salad (grilled pineapple, mango, red and green bell pepper, cilantro, crystalised micro-basil, white sesame garlic vinaigrette) was presented in a small amount and it was relatively simple, but delicious and refreshing. A nice start to the evening. My friend’s Edamame Bisque supposedly included pureed edamame as well as bacon, but she said that it tasted more like mushroom bisque – she couldn’t detect the edamame or bacon but she still liked it.
Then came a complimentary surprise. I didn’t catch what it was called but free is always nice. It’s basically an imitation crab salad and a thin, fried cracker on a thinly sliced cucumber. I liked this a lot: the textures and the flavors all complimented each other perfectly.
The second course came a little later than we’d like, but once they came, there were no complaints. We all ordered something different! Both of my friends enjoyed their choices a lot and they wish the portions were bigger. I didn’t try any of the Escolar Appetizer (thinly sliced escolar, micro-greens, habenero infused tobiko, garlic ponzu sauce) or Seiho Scallops (scallops sauteed in garlic soy butter and sliced jalapenos) but they looked amazing. I was iffy about my Salmon Cubes (rare grilled salmon, micro-cilantro, cochu miso vinaigrette) because I don’t like cooked meat of any sort and it was seared, but honestly, the seared portion was so thin I easily ignored it. The raw salmon itself was melt-in-your-mouth and the sauce was just divine.
The third and main course consisted of my Assorted Sushi Plate (4 pieces nigiri sushi with gourmet toppings, butter crab roll, thinly sliced escolar sashimi plate), which was great though there was no escolar sashimi plate, and two orders of One If By Land, Two If By Sea (house rubbed 5 oz prime grade center cut filet, grilled prawn, grilled colossal scallop, roasted bacon potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, grilled baby bok choy). I can personally say that the mushrooms were incredibly juicy and flavorful and the bok choy was delicious.
Then, the cherry on top: dessert. My friend got the Mochi Ice Cream – you can choose 3 flavors from a long list of them; her favorite one was the raspberry white chocolate. I tried the strawbery chocolate one, which had actual bits of chocolate in it. The next choice was the Banana Cheesecake Chimichanga (rolled flour tortilla stuffed with banana cheesecake and fried banana chips and cinnamon caramel sauce). I got it because it sounded interesting and it was awesome with the cheesecake (though the banana taste wasn’t obvious), the crunch of the tortilla, the banana chips were nice, and the sauce was delicious. A note: sometime between the third and fourth course, they had dimmed the lights, hence the bad lighting.
We were talking about taking another stop for some dessert but once we cleared our fourth course, we were full, unable to think about making more room. Now, I wish I also could have tried the Green Tea Tiramisu as well…