Baked Rolls at Sushi Nikko

Steve Hong recently opened Sushi Nikko (1140 Eldridge Pkwy., 281-493-3330) — with a little help from his friends. "A very good friend of my uncle's owns 20 locations of Sushi Nikko in California," says Hong. "He helped me open the first Sushi Nikko in Houston. This is my first business venture, and I was lucky to have someone I knew help me. It's kinda like having a franchise, only better. Because he's done it many times before, he guided us through it."

Hong is most animated when talking about his food. "We've got 57 different kinds of rolls — no one else in Houston has that, plus we have baked rolls," he says. "Since not everyone likes sashimi, we decided to bake some rolls, like our very popular snow cone roll, which has albacore, lobster, crab meat and avocado. No one else has that, either." If you know sushi, we suggest putting yourself in the chef's hands. On a recent evening — the place was packed — he started out slow with some snapper, salmon and shrimp, then progressed to the tuna flight with yellowfin, albacore and a well-spiced pepper tuna. The finale was a magnificent flourish, including some high-quality toro, scallops and something they call crunchy rolls, two large shrimp heads flash-fried so they're crisp and crunchy.

Hong and his team of sushi chefs are all from South Korea. "Koreans were probably eating raw fish even before the Japanese," he says. "Our head chef has more than 15 years of experience in preparing sushi. He can even carve up a live fish!"

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Paul Galvani