We’d resisted trying this Highland Village newcomer for two reasons. We aren’t club goers, and the place gave off vibes more like a nightclub than an eating establishment. It’s also part of a chain operation. I guess you could call us snobby, but we also don’t frequent PF Changs, its neighbor at the other end of the shopping center. Nevertheless, we had heard good things about the food, and the atmosphere certainly looked intriguing from the exterior. Located on the second floor of the shopping center above what was previously Grotto, you walk up a dramatic staircase to a sleek and contemporary bar and dining area. Many of the tables are located in the bar, which has large floor to ceiling windows overlooking Westheimer. The very welcome recent change in the law that prohibits smoking in bars in Houston restaurants makes sitting in the bar at RA Sushi a pleasant experience. We’re on a sushi bender, eating it for lunch at least once almost every weekend. So, we’ve only been to RA Sushi twice on weekend afternoons. During the daytime, the dining area, which is in the interior of the restaurant, doesn’t seem as inviting as the bar. We’ve heard the evening scene can be quite interesting, but we can’t comment on that.
On the theory that green stuff is usually good for us, we started both times with Edamame. We’ve yet to notice any difference among sushi restaurants with this dish, so we move on. We tried the seaweed salad and the squid salad. The former was good but not the best we’ve had in Houston (that honor goes to Uptown Sushi). But the squid salad was very good — slivers of squid in a very light spicy, nutty dressing, with some tasty green slivers of unrecognizable origin.
Although RA Sushi serves the typical raw fish items, the menu’s emphasis is not on the raw stuff. There are numerous rolls with cooked items, including the very popular Viva Las Vegas Roll, which we haven’t tried. Apparently, it includes fake crab and cream cheese, rolled with rice and tempura fried, topped with some spicy tuna and what looks like (but probably isn’t) a fried green tomato slice. Like the other rolls on the menu, the focus seems to be on pleasing people who don’t like raw fish but like the idea of saying they’re going for sushi.
We did enjoy the Chili Ponzu Yellow Tail so much the first time that we had it again on our second visit. Slices of raw yellow tail were served with a slightly spicy dipping sauce, topped with toasted pine nuts and cashews. On our first visit, we tried the Atlantic Roll, considered to be one of the more popular raw rolls. Crab and cucumber topped with salmon, we found it to be bland. On our second visit, we tried the Crispy Soft Shell Crab. Coated in well seasoned panko crumbs and nicely fried, we got two meaty crabs for a reasonable price.
On both occasions, the service was less than attentive. Perhaps they’re understaffed on weekend afternoons or the best and brightest wait staff don’t want those shifts. Fortunately, like many restaurants nowadays, different servers bring the food when it’s ready in the kitchen. Thus, it arrives at the table fresh and warm or cold, as the case may be.