There are a TON of places in Austin to get your sushi fix, but not all sushi establishments are created equally. Some are highbrow, some are middling; some are traditionalist, some feature orange "Longhorn" sauce. Just like your favorite sushi sampler plate, I've created a variety pack of spots to suit every taste (and tastebud).
Maybe I don't have to tell you about Musashino. Maybe you've already enjoyed its swanky environs. Maybe you've come to realize it's the poor man's Uchi. But here's something you don't know: I accidentally ordered three sushi rolls, for myself, the first time I went (too much sake), and enjoyed every last bite. Two involved habanero-infused caviar (an ingredient they love to use here), and the other squid ink-infused sushi rice, black and oily. I'm normally a very generous person, but this time, I didn't share.
Allandale's cozy, non-pretentious sushi joint, with free miso soup, an elevated wooden booth area that's fun to sit in, and very reasonable sushi prices. The crunchy, rich Spider Roll is a classic anywhere, but at Ichiban, the avocado is so bright green and the soft shell crab so moist that I can never resist ordering it.
The creme de la creme of Austin sushi houses, Uchi has a tony legacy: It's the homebase of chef Tyson Cole, the 2011 James Beard Award "Best Chef of the Southwest;" it birthed the career of Top Chef Winner Paul Qui. Reservations aren't allowed at Uchi so a long wait is normal, but oh, the wait is worth it: Just ask anyone who's ever tried their sake-marinated salmon roe roll, or the sear-it-yourself wagyu beef appetizer. This is an occasion restaurant for most, but make it a point at least once in your life, Austinites, to savor a dinner at this local gem.
A dressy, downtown Japanese/Chinese outfit with an inventive sushi menu -- and given the atmosphere, prices really aren't that bad. Vegetarians will like the Buddha-Licious, stuffed with shiitake mushrooms, inari tofu, sprouts, cucumber, avocado, and tempura asparagus; carnivores (and sushi iconoclasts) will like the BLT: It's miso-glazed bacon, avocado, tuna, and lettuce in a tomato basil wrap, topped with pesto and tomato aioli.
The atmosphere inside Sushi Zushi is slick and posh, giving me the sense that its clientele is mostly rich people who live in all those downtown condos. Its prices seem to confirm my suspicions, but I can tell you that it isn't money poorly spent. The menu at Sushi Zushi is ginormous, catering to every type of sushi eater: Vegan? Gluten-free? Raw only? Cooked only? There's something for everyone here, and the fresh, generous rolls do not disappoint.
If you're a sushi purist, entrusting only third generation sushi chefs to the preparation of your roll, well, maybe this place isn't for you. But I think the factory line, Subway-esque style of How Do You Roll? is pretty genius, and damn if I haven't created some fine rolls here. From a see-through counter, you direct your roll prep on the selection of ingredients, from white rice to brown, cooked chicken to raw spicy tuna, cucumber to cream cheese. If the result is bad, you only have yourself to blame! Better luck next time, grasshopper.
A creative, moderately-priced, cozy little sushi house on Airport Blvd, Kome endeared itself to me almost immediately upon opening. Let's get to the creative: Their cleverly-named signature rolls include the Love for Sale (salmon, mango, avocado, asparagus) and Super Star (tuna, shrimp squid, ume plum), while their dessert menu boasts a popular green tea parfait. Rolls are between $4 and $14, making you a pretty cheap date if you just stuck to that. But beware of the sake: They are a couple of local, organic options that are incredibly delicious (and, expensive).
Let me get right to the point: The sushi at DK Sushi isn't really the point. Sure, it's fine. But the real draw is Thursday night karaoke, hosted by what may be a certifiably insane (and hilarious) individual, DK himself. Free sake bombs if you sit in the front, and more if you take the stage and sing. Along with a gong, Asian soft porn on overhead TVs, a disco ball and DK's Gallagher-like personality, it's an Austin rite of passage.