Local Spotlight

Friday Night Downtown at Azuma Sushi & Robata Bar

I'm all for a sushi and sake night, so when a few of my friends invited my man and I out to Azuma's downtown location last Friday, we didn't even blink an eye before jumping in a cab and heading to meet them. It was a gorgeous night and our friends were already sitting at a large table outside on the beautiful patio when we arrived. My two girlfriends, being the gems that they are, had two glasses of sake and Sapporo waiting for us. Guess I'm starting dinner off with a sake bomb - thanks, ladies!

After ordering a few more warm sakes and drinks, we were ravenous. Diving into the huge menu, I immediately ran into trouble. This was my first time here...and I wanted everything. Luckily, through years of practicing Jedi mind tricks on my fiancé, I now possess the ability to convince him to split almost anything and make him think it was his idea. #gurlpower

We started light with a bowl of steamed edamame ($4) -- fresh, warm and lightly heavily salted soybeans the perfect companion for my light, crisp Sapporo. Next, we tried the Lady Dragon Roll ($13), one of the restaurant's Specialty Rolls that certainly lived up to the hype. Spicy tuna and avocado are wrapped inside pink soy paper before being ingeniously flash-fried and topped with a sweet unagi (eel) sauce, spicy mayo and an Alaskan mix (I'm still not sure what that is, but it's damn good). Did you get all that? They were so delicious, my friend pushed her sushi aside and ordered a second round.

Finally, we were on to the main event: The Hot Rock Beef ($14), sliced New York strip steak served raw with a piping hot rock to cook it on. Also available with Kobe (6 oz for $35, 12 oz for $65), the beef comes lying on a plate alongside a trio of bowls filled with pats of butter and two kinds of sauces. I jumped right in, coating the rock with butter and dabbing thin slices of fresh beef right on top for a quick sear on both sides. We dipped our slivers of steak into the two sauces, quickly determining one was much better. The first tasted almost like A-1, which in my mind had no place here, but the other "special" sauce was a welcome delight -- a thick, salty, teriyaki-like sauce that I continually doused my steak in.

On the side, we enjoyed the world's largest bowl of Chicken Fried Rice ($14). Served in a giant bucket-like wooden bowl, the dish was packed with veggies, soft, golden browned rice and sautéed chunks of chicken. I poured any remaining special sauce into the bucket bowl and attempted to chopstick the rice into my mouth. Even though I dropped about every other bite back into the bowl, we ended up putting a dent in it.

Stuffed and merry, we finished our drinks, paid the bill and headed on to paint downtown red.

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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano