Saturday, March 20, 2010

How Do You Roll?: The Chipotle of sushi restaurants

If you're like me, and your wife goes on prolonged craft/crocheting binge, you might find yourself up at JoAnn's Fabric up at the Arbor Walk at 183 and MoPac pretty frequently. There, you may have noticed a funky little sushi joint called How Do You Roll? that looks absolutely nothing like a sushi restaurant typically looks like.

And if you're like me, you're probably pretty skeptical of strip mall sushi (as you probably should be), but if you like your sushi (and if you like it good and fresh and without a whole lot of pretense and/or techno music) then you're not going to want to shy away from this place.

For starters, despite its mod fast-food-like appearance, the folks at HDYR know what they're doing. In fact, one of the owners was the long time sushi chef at Azuma in Houston before deciding to get out of the fine dining industry and start a more approachable way to bring sushi to the masses.

Some of the changes from traditional sushi places that you will see are pretty creative and complex. For instance, they've managed to automate the rice spreading as well as the slicing of the maki into individual sushi pieces.

But other changes really seem like no-brainers. Instead of picking from a set selection of sushi rolls, you create your maki just like at Chipotle. First, you pick your wrap (seaweed or soy paper). Then a machine spreads the sushi rice onto your roll. Then you pick your fillings.

Fish selections include traditional favorites, such as tuna, salmon, and eel. For the more adventurous, I definitely recommend the crawfish tails. (BTW, what is up with Northwest Austin and their Asian/crawfish fusion?? All I gotta say is keep it coming!!) Seasonal specials are also available as well.

For the "veggies," once again, traditional favorites such as cucumber, tamago (aka egg, yeah i guess egg is a vegetable), and cream cheese. But also available are asparagus, jalapeno, and sprouts.

Finally, you can opt to add some masago or tempura crumbles. Then, they put it through the automated maki slicer (I deliberated asking them not to cut mine so I could eat it as a sushi-rito), add a side of miso soup or seaweed salad, and you're good to go.

The end result? A pretty good set of sushi, with taste and presentation that do not suffer because of the new format one bit.

Oh did I mention, its about 10 pieces of sushi for under $10? Well enough for most sushi eaters looking to eat well for not a lot of money.

Even better, their happy hour specials make eating here an even bigger steal. Beer and cold sake are available, but I would have to say that I definitely miss having hot sake with my sushi. Hopefully, they'll make it available in the future.

So in closing, strict purists may still scoff, but if you're still saving up for that Uchi dinner, and Sushi Sake's happy hour already ended, you might want to give this place a try. Once you go low-cost, low-hassle sushi, you may never want to go back.