Cafe Kubo's

Yoichi "Yogi" Ueno opened the first Kubo's Sushi in the Village in 2001. "We wanted to expand into a fast-food restaurant serving healthy Japanese fast food with our new Cafe Kubo's [9889 Bellaire, 713-995-4200]," he says.

"Most of the Japanese restaurants in Houston are going for the high end but serve poor-quality food. We're doing the opposite — serving high-quality food at low prices. All of our menu items are under $10, but for that you get counter service only. We couldn't keep the prices down and offer full-service at the same time. Most of the Japanese restaurants in Houston are not run by Japanese people; they're run by Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese. We have a very casual atmosphere where people expect their food to be served quickly, and then they go — they don't stick around. The focus of the restaurant is on the quality of the food."

Ueno stumbled into the restaurant business after earning his MBA from St. Thomas and a successful career as an oil industry executive. One evening he had dinner with sushi master Hajimi Kubokowa and promised the master he would open a restaurant and name it after him.

Dish loved the cool, modern, inviting interior and found it both calming and yet efficient. The chicken udon soup (Japanese noodles) was a treat, while the nigiri combination sushi platter was plenty for lunch. The menu also included five different bento boxes and a host of tempura and curry dishes.

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