Pot Luck

First Look at Michiru Sushi: Affordable Luxury in Greenway Plaza

Michiru Sushi is the other high-profile sushi restaurant which opened recently, not to be confused with Chris Kinjo's MF Sushi on Westheimer. I haven't been to MF Sushi yet, and I'm keen to dine there. Although reviews so far have been mixed, one thing has been noted across the board: MF Sushi is quite pricey.

So it was with great relief that I found myself indulging in high-quality fare for far less money at Michiru Sushi this past Sunday night, including a dish which I've been raving about like a madwoman for a few days now: tuna dumplings.

As soon as our server -- a warm, bubbly woman who knew the menu inside and out -- explained the concept of the tuna dumpling, I was sold. Spicy tuna belly, shrimp, "crunch," and avocado inside a huge dumpling made of...wait for it...more tuna. It looked like the beautiful bastard offspring of a crunch roll and a soup dumpling, and I was smitten. We were given spoons to tear the dumplings apart with, and I couldn't believe how easily the paper-thin tuna parted to reveal the contents inside.

Michiru Sushi doesn't make claims as an authentic Japanese sushi restaurant. It's owned, after all, by Chinese -- like nearly every other sushi place in town. But what it does do is offer a very good selection of traditional Japanese favorites like sigh-inducingly fresh uni and Japanese red snapper alongside Americanized rolls and a short menu of house specialties that -- like those tuna dumplings -- make Michiru stand out from the crowd.

Michiru's owners also run the popular restaurant of the same name in Webster, and the Greenway Plaza spot is their second location. The menu is the same, although the atmosphere is slightly more upscale. And at the Greenway Plaza location, you'll find Oichi-san -- a Chinese sushi chef who trained in Japan for a decade, and in New York City for almost two.

There's a lot of art to what Oichi-san does, from the simple roses he creates out of curled pieces of barely-pink snapper to the bowls made out of ice in which the seaweed and sashimi salads are served. And although techniques such as these are by no means unique to Michiru, they lend a gentle touch of luxury to an otherwise simple, inexpensive meal.

That snapper was a special of the night, as was a limited supply of uni. And what terrific little bites they both were: the snapper still crunchy and warmed by a very light drizzle of spicy ponzu sauce, the uni buttery and briny-sweet. It was my dining companion's first taste of the sea urchin roe and I warned him: "You're getting spoiled tonight. Most uni in Houston isn't this good."

His eyes widened at the way the uni looked on its fat bulwark of rice and seaweed -- like a stack of bright orange tongues, complete with tiny tastebuds, plucked from the mouths of some mythical creatures -- but was surprised to find the roe so creamy and so sweet.

Just as quickly, however, he was on to two of Michiru's enormous, American-style rolls (although he admitted later he couldn't decide which he'd liked best -- the uni or the rolls). One, a nightly special, was full of Dungeness crab for $13. The other was a "Texas roll," one of those interesting specialty rolls that's offered at sushi restaurants across the state (and even outside our borders), but which differs entirely from place to place.

Here at Michiru, the only thing Texan about the $12 Texas roll is its topper of thinly sliced jalapeños. "The chef will put serrano peppers on top, if you ask," our server noted. The rest of the roll is filled out with spicy tuna -- perhaps in a further attempt to appeal to the Texan palate for spice -- and avocado, then covered with torched salmon, yellowtail, white tuna and more of that "crunch," which I'm not sure has a proper name despite its ubiquity on sushi menus. Both rolls were huge, and well worth their price.

In fact, everything at Michiru was surprisingly well-priced, given the area and the lovely setting inside, where a wall of water trickles gently down taut wire in a floor-to-ceiling wooden enclosure that separates the blue-hued bar from the rest of the mahogany-toned restaurant.

Those savory bites of uni weren't even the most expensive thing we ordered that night -- they were only $12. The tuna dumplings at $14 and the Japanese snapper at $16 were the priciest, and I honestly could have finished a meal with just those two items. Along with the two rolls, the uni and a sprightly salad of sashimi, seaweed and pickled vegetables, we completely over-ordered and were faced with a mountain of fish.

Luckily, we had all night to spend at the utterly relaxed sushi bar, eating and watching the show: me watching Oichi-san and his two chefs cleave fish quietly and with contented, relaxed concentration, my dining companion watching the NFL game on a flat-screen that hung nearly silent on one wall and polishing off a bottle of nigori sake. I couldn't have asked for a better close to a hectic weekend than this.

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Katharine Shilcutt