The just-opened Ra Sushi at Interstate 10 and Beltway 8 is a little tough to find. Even though the address is 800 W. Sam Houston (a better address might be 12860 Queensbury), it takes a certain amount of determination and a sharp eye to find the right turn at Queensbury on the frontage road before the left turn that takes you into the heart of the not-quite-completed City Centre.
There are definite similarities to Ra's very successful location in Highland Village. The red and black decor is fully in place, the restaurant is on the second floor, the lengthy bar is fully stocked.
But maybe because of location, this Ra seems to be pulling a slightly older crowd, less concerned (perhaps) with the prospects for that night's hook-up and more concerned (again perhaps) with what they are drinking and eating.
"We still rock out on the weekends, but the dining side is not quite as loud. We're not selling as many shots here, and it's 2-1 wine over beer," says General Manager Wayne Kammerl, who moved over from the same position after two-and-a-half years at the Highlands location. This gives him a chance to open a restaurant right from the start.
We were there for a tasting, and the standouts were the tuna cado (thinly sliced Ahi tuna dusted with Japanese rice crackers and black sesame seeds) served with avocado and a ponzu dipping sauce and the Ra-ckin' shrimp (crispy shrimp on a bed of mixed greens with a ginger dipping sauce).
The tasting included Ra's signature Viva Las Vegas roll -- they sold 11,000 of those at the Highland Village location last year, Kammerl says. It's a combination of cream cheese and tuna, crab and eel sauce tossed on top.
The King crab roll was served with Asian pesto sauce. Kammerl says that they believe one of their strengths is that Ra offers all its items with a dish-specific sauce -- instead of just handing out the soy sauce, ginger and washabi mix-"em-ups. "You can go anywhere and get a California roll," he says, but Ra makes it distinctive with its own special sauce.
The dengaku tofu dish is for diners who really don't like tofu. It's cut into cubes, rolled in flour, lightly deep-fried with a ladle of tempura sauce.
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One advantage this Ra will have over its predecessor by the time of the official grand opening on September 24 is it will have a back area that will enable it to put on private events there.
But it's all systems go right now for regular diners and bar hoppers with a no-reservations policy in place. Kammerl believes they'll draw customers from west Houston, Katy and south to Sugar Land.