Umai Japanese Restaurant
Umai means "delicious" in Japanese, and it is certainly a fitting name for the new, trendy place that just opened on Bellaire, Umai Japanese Restaurant (8400 Bellaire, 713-750-9222). Manager and soon-to-be-owner Anita Yang is from Taiwan but decided to open a Japanese restaurant, she says, "because I like to eat a lot of different things, and there aren't too many Japanese restaurants on Bellaire, and also because I studied in Japan and am fluent in Japanese."
Yang is a most gregarious host, moving from table to table to make sure that people are enjoying her food. She'll even explain the ingredients in some of the dishes, if asked. What's most interesting about the modern-looking restaurant is that sushi and sashimi are not mainstays here, but traditional Japanese foods are, and at incredible prices.
Dish enjoyed a fascinating appetizer known as shiso hasami age, which consisted of a mixture of minced shrimp and mushrooms wrapped in a shiso leaf and covered in tempura. (Shiso, known as "perilla" in English, has a taste similar to a mix of mint, basil and fennel.) The main course, a seared pepper tuna steak salad served with a wonderful wasabi-honey-mayo dressing, was spectacular, as was the smoky saba shio, Norwegian mackerel with sea salt. With nothing more expensive than $11 on the menu, you will be hard pressed to find better value anywhere else in the city.
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