RA Sushi's corporate executive chef Tai Obata has come through with some new menu items -- several with a Tex-Mex influence -- and we made our way over to a media tasting to try them out at the Highland Village location on Westheimer. It was a tasting that went on longer than usual when the kitchen was slammed with other customers. Whatever RA is doing, it's working, and this was on a Tuesday night.
The first course consisted of new items -- sweet onion salmon (RA Tapas), RA chips & salsa and Kaisen Ceviche -- along with the ever dependable "RA"ckin' Shrimp. The salmon was served with marinated onions and sweet onion dressing and micro greens. The combination worked well; the salmon was neither overwhelmingly fishy or rubbery, and the greens didn't go limp.
The RA chips & salsa was something of a disappointment. A spicy tuna tartare was mixed with cucumber, avocado and fresh salsa, and just seemed too mushy. It was served with wonton chips.
The standout was the Kaisen Ceviche; Japanese-style ceviche (who knew there was such a thing?) with cooked shrimp, scallops and squid, chilled and mixed with tomato, avocado and salsa, all served in a spring roll shell. The result was a tart and lively dish that was easy to pick up with chopsticks.
The second course offered two new dishes -- Hot Mess and "RA" Lllipop -- along with the ever-popular Viva Las Vegas Roll and the spicy lobster roll (perfect for those who want to avoid a seaweed wrap).
Surprisingly enough -- because it's not very pretty and lives up to its name about being messy -- the hit at the table was the Hot Mess. In it, crispy rice balls are topped with a spicy king crab mix, then baked and finished off with jalapeno and cilantro. It's dishes like this that make people want to eat out -- a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. However, one diner/dissenter said that her rice ball had apparently been sitting in grease for a while and she wasn't feeling the joy.
The "RA" Llipop made of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, spicy tuna mix, lettuce, asparagus and cucumber wrapped in lobok was served on a skewer with a garlic ponzu sauce on the side. It looked great. The sauce was great. One of the diners at our table enthusiastically dunked everything he could into that sauce, but the dish itself seemed a little blah. Maybe it just didn't stand up well in a tough crowd.
The third course was nothing new, a reliable chicken teriyaki that had a delicious sauce but (at least the piece we had) was a bit dry and overdone. This is what people order when they don't want to eat sushi.
The grand finale -- and new dish -- was a Banana Split Maki. This is a fried banana maki topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit (which in this dinner included kiwi fruit, mandarin orange slices and strawberry); then drizzled with raspberry and chocolate sauce. Basically heaven.
RA has also introduced a number of new drinks such as the Shisho Naughty ("Skyy Pineapple vodka and X-rated liqueur with fresh flavors of yuzu & Japanese shiso), the Strawberry Soju Sunrise ("fresh strawberries combined with Japenese TY KU Soju & yuzu citrus flavors) and Bangin' Blueberry Mojito ("Cruzan rum mixed with fresh mint, lime juice & blueberry puree"). It's also brought in some new sakes, Hakutsuru Sayuri "Little Lily" Junmai Nigori Sake and Tozai "Living Jewel" Junmai Sake, for example.
There's more, but we're sure diners and drinkers can make their way through these without too much guidance from us. Remember, RA offers an extensive happy hour at both locations in Highland Village and at CityCentre, and it includes both food and drink.
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.