Midtown's New Attitude

Blowfish has a brilliant chef with bad manners

Impressed by Chang's playful menu and cutting-edge food, I decided to sit at the sushi bar on my third visit to Blowfish. This turns out to be a mistake.

A friend of Chang's told me the chef does a remarkable specialty called anago "Old World-style" on Wednesdays. The eel, he says, is marinated in sake and then a second time in lemon and pepper to bring out the gaminess before grilling. This is Wednesday, but the waiter has never heard of the Old World anago. He says a Phoenix roll with smelt is the only off-menu item, and I can get it on the $13 lunchtime sushi special. The roll is very tasty, smelt being those funky-tasting minnows that the Italians love to eat fried, but Chang's sushi bar-side manner leaves a lot to be desired.

The chef is running a sushi boot camp today with absolutely no regard for the customers seated right in front of him. "Order up!" he shouts at ear-splitting volume every couple of minutes. And that's not all he's shouting. Chang berates the waiters for not picking up their orders and his fellow sushi chef for being too slow. When things calm down, Chang launches into a lengthy criticism of his co-worker's performance for all to hear. The dressing-down is nearly as embarrassing to me and the six other people at the bar as it is to the hapless sushi man.

"New Vogue" cuisine: Jumbo Prawns Crusted in Eggroll Cookies.
Deron Neblett
"New Vogue" cuisine: Jumbo Prawns Crusted in Eggroll Cookies.

Location Info


Blowfish Restaurant & Sushi

309 Gray St.
Houston, TX 77002-8597

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Downtown/ Midtown


713-526-5294. Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to midnight.

Shirayuki ginjo sake: $15
Avocado Miso Something Soup: $8
Smoked Salmon Volcano: $10
Cookie-crusted prawns: $16
Pollo tempura: $11
Nama sake: $8
Godzilla roll: $10
Fajita roll: $8
Lickitty Split: $13
Lunch sushi special: $12.95

309 West Gray

Then one of Chang's buddies shows up and sits down beside me. Chang tells the guy he should order the same $13 lunchtime sushi special I just ate, but for his friend, Chang loudly promises a much better selection than the general public is being served. Chang goes on to tell his friend what a bunch of yahoos all the other Houston sushi chefs are and how superior his Japanese training was. Evidently his sushi master never got around to teaching him any manners.

Chang is a major culinary talent who behaves with an arrogance common to great chefs. It's just that the boorishness usually takes place on the other side of the swinging doors. I've heard of some wild sushi chefs who make a show of yelling and screaming, but I don't think that's what Chang is up to. He comes across more like an artiste who can't be bothered with ordinary customers. Word has it that Chang is serving as a consultant at Blowfish, and that he intends to move on as soon as the staff at the one-month-old restaurant has been adequately trained.

This eye-popping Midtown sushi salon is already one of the hottest scenes in the city, the place to make a bold fashion statement and do a little late-night grazing on food that's innovative and fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. But as contradictory as it might sound, the restaurant will get a lot better when the brilliant chef that created the remarkable menu gets the hell out of there.

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