Quite a Show at Sushi Tora

The sushi is good, and the spectacle great.

And I go to Sushi Tora for the food. Especially Tanagi's inventive rolls, such as the enormous 420 Roll (which L.T. claims to have created and named): Several fat lengths of shrimp tempura take up the middle of the roll, sandwiched with spicy tuna, albacore tuna, roasted garlic and slices of avocado on all sides. It's wrapped in snowy white soy paper instead of seaweed, then topped with a ponzu sauce, scallions and masago.

If you like the 420 Roll and you like heat, you'll have to try the Hectic Roll, too: It's more of the same, except topped with slices of fresh, unseeded jalapeño, habanero-infused masago and a squirt of Sriracha on each slice for good measure. The Negihama Roll, too, deals in large quantities of heat: hamachi and more of that habanero-infused masago are tucked inside a roll that's doused with chile oil and a spice blend that tastes of cayenne and Sichuan peppercorns.

The regular sushi at Sushi Tora is a bit less inspired. Tanagi himself admits that he only gets a small amount of really good fish each day, and it goes fast. "I only get two servings of tuna belly," he told me once while seated at the sushi bar. "You either get it or you don't." He's usually out of uni, too, and spicy scallops. And when the tuna belly is gone, the tuna that's served on all of the regular nigiri is stodgy and flaccid, with very little flavor.

The 420 roll features shrimp tempura, spicy tuna and avocado.
Katharine Shilcutt
The 420 roll features shrimp tempura, spicy tuna and avocado.

Location Info


Sushi Tora

920 Studemont
Houston, TX 77007

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: Heights


Hours: 6 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursdays, noon to midnight Fridays and Saturdays, 6 to 11 p.m. Sundays.
Red snapper nigiri: $1.95
Sweet shrimp nigiri: $3.95
Negihama Roll: $8.95
Tuna sashimi: $9.95
420 Roll: $13.95
Adam's Bomb: $13.95

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On the other hand, Tanagi serves excellent red snapper that's firm and opaque, nicely briny mackerel, pleasantly chewy octopus, serviceable salmon and a fun plate of sweet raw shrimp (ebi) that's served alongside the whole-fried head of the prawn itself. And all of the fish is elevated by his rice, which is nearly translucent and holds cleanly together without being viscously sticky. You can taste the seasoning in the rice on its own, which is balled up neatly underneath each piece of fish and served at body temperature, a uniquely pleasant sensation when good sushi rice is so hard to find in Houston.

And down there on the very bottom of the short menu are the Adam's Bomb and the TNC Bowl — the only two dishes on the dinner menu that aren't strictly sushi. They're a sort of tribute to hwe, Korean-style sashimi salads that feature raw albacore tuna served over seaweed, cucumbers and various other vegetables in a very light application of tangy Japanese mayonnaise. Although they don't come with Tanagi's excellent rice, they're two of my favorite dishes on the menu.

Whatever you decide to order, though, sit at the sushi bar. Not only is it far less likely that you'll lose your waiter to a lovers' quarrel in the parking lot, you'll get to experience Tanagi — who is actually a hell of a funny guy, with a playful hint around his eyes that the patented sushi Nazi persona is all an elaborate show — up close and personal.

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