My first visit to Zushi was a few years ago when it first opened. With so many choices for sushi in Houston, Zushi then fell off my radar. Last week CBS Local Offers featured a $30 for $15 voucher to Zushi, and I used it as an opportunity to refresh my memory. With no restrictions on when you could dine and with the inclusion of alcohol in the deal, I went to Zushi during one of the daily happy hours, or "evening specials," according to the menu.
The restaurant itself is very much in line with the aesthetics of today's sushi restaurants, with modern furniture, dim lighting and club music in the background.
The happy hour menu is your standard affair, with a few appetizers to choose from, along with a selection of Nigiri, Maki and Handrolls. The drink specials are not listed on the menu, but the waitress gladly advised us. As we perused the menu, it became clear that $30 would not go a very long way for two people. The nigiri were $2-2.50 apiece, slightly higher than other sushi happy hours. The appetizers and maki were $5-6.50.
For appetizers we ordered the Shitake Mushroom Tempura and Baked Mussels. We each also ordered a peppered tuna nigiri and a salmon (sake) nigiri, something I always order to gauge to the quality of a sushi restaurant's fish. I also had a sweet tofu skin nigiri. We rounded out our order with a standard California Roll.
When the appetizers arrived, I found myself both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised. The mushrooms were a good-size portion of large whole shitakes lightly battered and fried, but the baked mussels arrived with just two lone mussels on the plate. The mushrooms were not greasy despite being deep-fried, and the meaty flavor paired well with the ponzu sauce. The mussels were good as well, although they were a little inundated with the spicy Sriracha mayo. I also wanted more caramelization on top.
The nigiri was also both good and bad. The fish itself was fresh. The sake was buttery and slighty fatty, the flavor on the peppered tuna was just right, and the sweet tofu was both sweet and savory, and not too chewy. But the rice was a little off-putting. Not the usual sticky rice I know and love, it seemed slightly hard, as if they had used long-grain rice instead of the requisite short-grain. It did little to complement the freshness of the fish.
Would I return to Zushi without a discount? Sadly, most likely not. The regular menu does have some enticing options for entrees, such as the Miso Seabass, and the specialty rolls show some innovation, but I wouldn't be able to justify paying such high prices when we have so many options.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.