There are several restaurants offering four-course dinners during Houston Restaurant Weeks instead of the traditional three-course dinners, and I'll admit that this is the main reason I chose Soma Sushi for dinner with a friend last Saturday night: the opportunity to eat four dishes for only $35 (factoring in extra for sake, of course).
But I didn't know what I was getting myself into when I perused Soma's four-course menu online, which featured favorites like its miso mac 'n' cheese and maguro ribbons. I assumed that the four courses would be considerably scaled down, as they have been at places like neighboring Max's Wine Dive. I was wrong.
Instead, my friend and I goggled as four full courses of food marched on and off the table over the course of three hours. It was a staggering amount of food -- but we bravely managed to eat it all.
The miso mac 'n' cheese came with its same crispy top of broiled parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs and the same silky, creamy béchamel sauce blended with miso, Cheddar and Gouda as usual, and we fought over the last bite.
We also tried a dish I'd never had before: Chilean sea bass age, the fat pieces of filet fried Japanese-style and served with an array of vegetables: enoki, matake, shimeji and king oyster mushrooms along with snow peas and carrots. I struggled to choose a favorite of the two, though they were so different from one another.
The next course saw two slightly more similar dishes hit the table: raw preparations of beef and tuna. The beef carpaccio was good, served in broad, tender ribbons that were sliced thin enough to see through. But the tuna maguro (described on the menu as ribbons, but more like long, ruggedly thick strips of ruddy tuna) was the star. The meaty fish was served in an elegantly jumbled pile alongside Thai basil and avocado, topped with crispy lotus chips that looked as good as they tasted.
Our main courses of lobster maki roll and Korean barbecue were beautifully presented, too. The lobster maki came with an entire lobster cut apart and arranged around a roll that contained the sweet pieces of tail meat. We dug into the claws with our tiny forks and popped even more meat out, then found ourselves unraveling the cucumber around the maki roll so that we could eat more of the lobster unimpeded.
The sweet-and-savory Korean barbecue reminded me of the beef chips once served at The Hay Merchant, marinated in garlic, sugar, sesame oil and soy sauce.
By the time dessert came around, we were horrified at what we'd done to ourselves. I'd already eaten twice as much in one sitting as I normally would, but the siren call of homemade matcha green tea ice cream wouldn't be ignored. So we gamely gulped it down between bites of a spekuloos cookie with a spicy, gingerbread kick on the side. I stared down the "New Wave Vanilla Cheesecake" my friend had ordered, sure that it would be too heavy on top of everything else, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it had a light, whipped texture that proved to be the perfect last bite of the evening.
I know it's not kosher to split Houston Restaurant Weeks menus, so I'm not suggesting that you do. I will say, however, that if you plan to eat at Soma Sushi during HRW -- which you absolutely should -- bring a big appetite and wear stretchy fabrics. You don't want to have to unbutton your pants in such a nice place.
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