With big Houston restaurant openings, 2023 might be the year of the sushi

Japanese cuisine is having a moment in the spotlight as the Kata Robata team's second concept and other newcomers add to the vibrant sushi scene.

Photo of Emma Balter
Money Cat is one of Houston's newest Japanese and sushi restaurants.

Money Cat is one of Houston's newest Japanese and sushi restaurants.

Kimberly Park

Houston is known for many culinary delights—barbecue, Viet-Cajun crawfish, tacos. It isn't particularly known for sushi—like some American cities on the West Coast—but that's changing with new and upcoming restaurant openings.

Earlier this month, chef Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi made a big announcement: For the first time since he debuted his acclaimed Kata Robata more than a decade ago, Horiuchi is opening his second restaurant, Katami. Kata Robata is a hot destination for Japanese food, serving ramen, salads and fire-grilled skewers as well as sushi. But at Katami, the star of the show will be sushi, which Horiuchi calls "my first love."

Akamutsu (Japanese sea perch), left, and Fraser River sockeye salmon at Kata Robata.

Akamutsu (Japanese sea perch), left, and Fraser River sockeye salmon at Kata Robata.

Nick de la Torre, Houston Chronicle / Contributer

Kata Robata's fish is flown in from Japan several times a week, and the new restaurant will be no different. Kata is already a very upscale place, but the team said Katami will double-down on luxury ingredients like caviar, truffles, foie gras and A5 Wagyu. Katami will open in the spring of 2023 in Montrose, in the space formerly occupied by Vincent's, the Mandola family concept.

Katami is just the latest new restaurant to boost Houston's sushi scene. A mere two weeks ago, diners were discovering Money Cat, the new hot spot from the owners of Tobiuo Sushi & Bar in Katy. The Upper Kirby restaurant has wowed with creative takes on sushi and other Japanese dishes, alongside a solid beverage program.

In December, the team behind Hidden Okamase unveiled Sushi by Hidden in Rice Village, a unique concept that has you in and out in 30 minutes. In that short time window, diners are served 12 pieces of sushi for $60 per person—still a special-occasion price tag, but a cheaper alternative to Hidden Okamase's $175 tasting menu for 15 courses.

Sushi by Hidden offers 12 pieces of sushi for $60.

Sushi by Hidden offers 12 pieces of sushi for $60.

Jenn Duncan

And that's not all. Handies Douzo, the Heights hand roll destination, just opened its second location on Montrose Boulevard. The owners of Bosscat Kitchen & Libations launched Ten Sushi + Cocktail Bar last November. In September, Aya Sushi made a splash in the former Bernie's Burger Bus location in Bellaire, offering maki and nigiri, as well as crudo and other inventive Japanese dishes.

This followed high-profile spring openings such as Aiko, the brick-and-mortar evolution of the Bravery Chef Hall counter, and Uchiko, the little sister concept of stalwart Uchi. Such a notable sushi wave is reminiscent of the recent Italian dining renaissance in Houston, where new restaurants focused on the same cuisine open in rapid succession.

Sushi, especially the more upscale experiences, is not an everyday accessible food. Luckily, Uchi has a hidden-gem happy hour where you can get a meal for half the price. And if you're on the hunt for very inexpensive, great-quality sushi, Oishii on Richmond Avenue is still the best sushi bargain in the city.

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