Toku Sushi

Ray Lee ran restaurants for the Soma and Azuma group and also worked at Miyako and Japon before finally venturing out on his own at the new Toku Sushi (10001 Westheimer, 713-780-3338). "Toku is my real name. It means 'gain.' Ray Lee is my American name," he says.

Lee is originally from Hong Kong, which is where he learned to cook with French and Italian influences, attending hotel management school there. He also did stints in Japan, where he learned about sushi. "I started cooking when I was 16, and I have been in Houston for almost 20 years now," he says. "This place was called 713 Sushi and it was pretty run-down, but I decided that since the economy seems to be picking up, now was a good time to open my own place."

While Lee has been an investor in other restaurants, this is the first one that he owns 100 percent. "We have a really modern decor and we're serving more than just traditional Japanese food like tempura and robata; we're also serving a great rack of lamb and a cilantro sea bass soup and crab cakes, but all done in a Japanese style," says Lee. When Dish visited on opening weekend, we were surprised to see the place was already extremely busy. This is a testament to the quality of the cuisine and also to the extended happy hours.

Dish enjoyed an unusual asari miso soup, which was a traditional miso soup with clams. The Tartare Tower appetizer consisted of sushi-grade salmon, tuna and escolar, all carefully held together to form a small tower. Drizzled with sesame oil, it was a spectacular dish. Fried lotus root chips were unusual not only in shape (they're full of holes) but also in taste. A chef's choice sushi sampler did not disappoint.

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