I am THRILLED to report, USHI has gone up a full four points from our last visit! From 26/35 to 30/35! That’s insane! Ushi has always had amazing food, tremendous variety, incredible freshness, and near perfect execution. I was an avid USHIer since their West Houston days, when their pricing was more reasonable. Only visited once at their Chelsea location, and fell off my chair with their sake prices. If you’ve been reading my posts, you know we DRINK. Based on our most recent visit, a couple of weeks back, they have corrected their craziness, and brought the markups down to sane levels. YAY!
Critics love to rate on atmosphere and/or environment, and I never do. I don’t like to comment on this area because it’s not as simple as the other categories, I can’t put a formula in place to rate it. It’s entirely subjective! Based on the high cost of omakases, MANY people prefer the fanciness, love the snooty-elitist feel, but others (like me) prefer the humble, intimate, or even hole in the wall kind despite what you pay. But if the atmosphere or environment is “extreme”, then it warrants my commenting. USHI used to be one of the most intimidating restaurants. Take a gander at the May 2016 “first time-last time” post! There are other stories I have yet to mention. Once upon a time, I brought a friend to dine at Hideo-San’s counter (Chef Hideo Kuribara), and no joke, he threatened to throw us out! My friend made the grave mistake of dipping his sushi in the soy, and accidentally dropping the rice in the soy! Hideo-san was furious. He exclaimed, “if this was Japan, I throw you out!” Over the top much? But I continued to visit! Now that’s testament to how much respect I have for his food. That said, Hideo-san is a completely different person these days. He drinks, he smiles, he chats, he even jokes! He wasn’t quite as chatty in our last visit, but this time, he really opened up! He drank with us, and we had a great time hearing him explain the fishes, discussing the differences, talking about his-own preferences, all of that. All in all, a lovely time!
Small Plates & Sashimi:
- More of an amuse buche – thinly sliced and slow cooked lotus roots – this was fine, but let’s get to the fish!!!
- NIDAKO (lightly poached Octopus) – This is honestly 9/10 of why I will always come back to USHI. NO ONE does NIDAKO like USHI does. NO ONE. And I don’t even like NIDAKO. While I do enjoy NAMADAKO (LIVE octopus), I never ever order NIDAKO, and frown when they attempt to serve it to me in an omakase. USHI’s NIDAKO is practically raw incredibly fresh, with so little chew (which other sushi-yas just cannot come anywhere close to), and a nice fresh crunch. Despite as much as I just wrote, I don’t have enough, or the right words to make you appreciate this. You need to go try it yourselves.
- Sashimi platter:
- KIBINAGO (Slender Splat) (top left) – Like all tiny silvers, this will be a little fishy. But when served with the miso paste, it all balances out, and was very good!
- SHIMA AJI (Striped Jackfish) (bottom left) – Super fresh!
- HIGASHI TORO (Toro) (center) – Super labor intensive cut, pulled from between the sinews and muscles. This was incredible, zero chew, no funky tinge. Only complaint is I prefer this to be served as sushi…
- MIRUGAI (Giant Clam) (top right) – One of our favorite clams! No fishiness at all, and super crunchy! Boyfriend stole a cut!!!
- BOTAN EBI (Spotted sweet shrimp) (bottom right) – Shrimp itself was fantastic! You’re going to be disappointed at first, looking for your fried head, but don’t be, just be patient…
- SHIRO EBI (Sweet white shrimp) – Great quality, super fresh!
- MADAI (Seabream) – Served with a splash of citrus, and a touch of sea salt. YUMMMM
- KOHADA (Gizzard shad) – First real “lesser” piece… This was a bit over marinated, cooking the fish too much, changing the density…
- ISAKI (Grunt fish) – With an ISAKI, you expect a certain amount of fat and chew, this was super nice. Very good!
- AKAMUTSU (Rosy sea perch) – I THINK this was ABURIed (torched), but could be a seared as well. There was some smokiness, which I’m not used to, but it was really great.
- Ocean trout – Second somewhat lesser piece FOR ME. Purely due to preference, as I’m not a huge fan of ocean trouts. Super fatty cut. This was served again, with some slight smokiness, and brushed with soy. Good for an ocean trout.
- SUZUKI (Sea bass) – REALLY NICE. Love me a good summer seabass!
- OTORO (Super fatty Tuna) – Slightly ABURIed (torched), very nice, but so fatty that I need more rice!!!
- IKURA (Salmon roe) – So remember how I raved on and on about USHI’s NIDAKO? Their IKURA is on the same boat. I kid you not, their preparation of this is impeccable. They serve the largest, plumpest, crunchiest, and tastiest IKURAs ever! I don’t know why others don’t put in the time/dedication to properly marinate this fish. Yay USHI!!!
- California UNI – In the year of BAD California UNI, this one was GOOD. Good job! But I expected nothing less!
- TOKUBUSHI (Abalone) – Sorry Hideo-san, but though very good, this the third lesser piece. I’m very particular about my TOKUBUSHI though… I really do prefer it raw, but when cooked, and this one was slow cooked, there needs to be TONS of flavor. This was good, but not super flavorful…
- NEGITORO handroll – TINY, which others might not like, but I did! Scrumptious!
- MISO soup with da-dah!!! The head of the BOTAN EBI – MISO soup with the shrimp flavoring is so much better than just plain MISO.
- Dessert – scoop of ice cream, your choice of green tea, vanilla, or red bean.
- KINMEDAI (Golden Eye Snapper) – Slightly ABURIed, and DELICIOUS
- NIDAKO Sashimi (Octopus) – ROUND 2 – you know I’m all over this one! DELECTABLE!
- MIRUGAI (Giant Clam) – Round 2 (Boyfriend had this, not me)
- TOKUBUSHI (Abalone) – Round 2 (Boyfriend had this, not me)
- IKURA (Salmon Roe) – Round 2 – still just as good as the first serving!
- Quail egg & Hackleback with scallions – Boyfriend had this, not me. He is a big fan of caviar though, and claims this was decent…