The Best Sushi in Austin

Tuna and seafood in general are part of my daily cravings and diet, and we are lucky that we have had SO many new sushi spots appear in just the last few years in Austin, where it used to only be Uchi if you wanted a quality nice meal out. When I want sushi, I’m just looking for well-sourced and high-quality fish laid over tasty sushi rice — it’s simple nigiri, really! I usually skip the rolls covered in sauce and hidden with tempura because that is no way to taste fresh fish, but I’vealso discovered a few special rolls for heartier bites that I love at some of my reliable sushi spots below.  Omakase is only worth it to me if it’s going to lean mostly raw (Sushi by Scratch Restaurants) or have an incredible environment (Otoko), and I am always happy to try more sushi as new spots pop up around town, but these have become my go-to favorites. 

Komé Komé has the most affordable and high-quality sushi served in an easy, first-come first-serve environment, and that’s a fact. I like to go for lunch because they have an incredible lunch special and it’s casual and chill. I’ve never had to wait that long either. I think the Spooky Roll is the best sushi roll in all the land, with spicy tuna and salmon inside PLUS more salmon on top, a it has just the right rice-to-fish ratio and not too much sauce to where you can’t taste the sea.The Nigiri pieces are so big, with the fish a little wide and hanging over the rice slightly, but not TOO big. I never miss the Otoro here as it’s always reliable and the exact texture needed. They’re open seven days a week (most sushi restaurants I want to go to are closed on Sundays), and lunch is available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the weekend. The Sushi Lunch, which includes five pieces of Nigiri, miso soup, and your choice of roll, is only $22 for so much food! If you’re in the mood for soup, come here for Udon, and let it heat you up!

Neighborhood Sushi — I previously wasn’t a fan of Neighborhood Sushi, but I had only sat outside, and I can now report that dining in the enclosed and cozy booths with the sexy lighting that makes the hard-at-work sushi chefs light up changed the whole experience for me. They exude fame with the spotlight on them, and the mood of the entire restaurant is calming and soothing and a place that feels nice enough! The dish that I’m still thinking about is the tender and eye-popping Yellowtail Tartare with caviar in the center that was almost like taking little bites of ice cream as it melted in my mouth. I would say this is one of the top 5 bites in Austin and why I will now go back anytime someone suggests Neighborhood. For nigiri, we had Eel, Eggplant, Tuna, Tasmanian Trout, and Salmon, and even though I still like the nigiri more at Komé and Sushi Roku due to its tenderness, flavor, and size, I think you’ll enjoy Neighborhood Sushi, and I definitely want to sit at the sushi bar next time.

Otoko + Watertrade Chef Yoshi is the culinary talent behind both Otoko and Watertrade, and at Otoko, which drops their reservations the first of the month on a three-month rolling basis, you score a front row seat watching him prepare everything for each course, which is far more than just sushi. The 12-seat experience at Otoko merges Tokyo-style sushi with Kyoto-style kaiseki with crudos, plated dishes, nigiri pieces, and I’ve even had some sort of duck taco once as he is inspired by Texas and Mexican influences and local ingredients. Watertrade is the Japanese whiskey bar that you enter in before your omakase to enjoy a beverage before dinner OR to secretly just come in for a drink and have some bites from Yosh’s izakaya only served at the bar, which you can turn into your whole meal if you don’t want a $200+ tasting menu. Make a reservation at the bar or walk in earlier in the week and don’t miss the churro ice cream sandwich there.

Sushi Roku — Sushi Roku’s new downtown spot is an already established California concept (don’t roll your eyes as we needed a non omakase spot that’s this fresh!) that meets my sushi needs as a simple place for fresh, tender nigiri that isn’t overly dressed in sauces, leaning more rice heavy, and whatnot. At this point, I really judge a sushi spot based on my favorite  item: Tuna Toro Nigiri, and Sushi Roku wins with great quality tuna portion over just the right amount of rice. I’m not a big fan of rolls because they hide the fish flavor in sauces or tempura, but I will hunt down Sushi Roku’s Tuna Jalapeño Roll as it made my eyes bulge out in a “hell yes!” This reliable sushi spot has their sourcing figured out, and I’m thrilled to report they’re now open for lunch with a sushi and nigiri and chirashi option, as well as the full menu. There’s so many steakhouses downtown, but no full-on sushi spots I love — until now! 

Sushi by Scratch Restaurants — Considering the 17-course Nigiri Sushi Omakase at Sushi by Scratch Restaurants is one of my 112 Best Dishes in Austin, you know Chefs Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee’s omakase would make this list. The Michelin-starred concept gives dinner AND a show as you watch the chefs break down the fish and blowtorch salmon for that extra flavor all right before your eyes. Each bite is better than the last, and when they opened a few years ago, they instantly became the inspiration as this was the only nigiri-only 10 seat omakase in town, and now, they are overflowing with new ones regularly. Sushi by Scratch isn’t trying to overwhelm you with complexity and if you like nigiri like me, this will have you moaning at each bite, plus the matcha ice cream bon bons at the end are stellar. There’s 10 seats in each seating, held at 5, 7:15 and 9:30 nightly. (Photo by Chad Wadsworth)

Musashino — At this point, you probably know exactly how I like my sushi — nigiri with fresh tuna toro over perfectly vinegared rice. Musashino has always been a golden Austin sushi restaurant to me as they have the biggest pieces of nigiri I’ve ever had! Located near campus, jaunt up some steps to enter the restaurant, where you’ll see a sushi counter, casual dining seating and traditional Japanese decor. There’s SO many different specials every night to choose from, but do NOT miss the cooked Escolar Kushiyaki, two skewers of rock-grilled escolar, which is the best appetizer I’ve had at any sushi spot and will be how you’ll begin this meal…or else. Their rolls are way too big for me with too much rice hiding the fish, and I left most of the roll on my plate and ordered more nigiri.

Uchi + Uchiba + Uchiko — When I want Japanese food, Uchi is incredible with all their crudos, cooked dishes, and desserts, but when I think of just sushi, I go to other places, and as for Uchiko, there’s a wonderful private room for the ultimate birthday for a sushi lover! The newest member of the Uchi family, Uchiba opened 20 years after the first Uchi, and you can see how both Austin and Uchi have grown when you visit. Austin is often so casual with picnic tables and chairs that leave lines on the back of your legs, so I love the more elegant experience of eating at Uchiba, where everything feels intimate and luxurious with a beautifully-lit bar and arches throughout the space. What stands out about the menu compared to other Uchi restaurants is the Buns and Baos, Dumplings and Yakitori, but I think the sushi is the best part. I recommend all my go-to nigiris, including the Bluefin Otoro, Hamachi, Kanpachi and Nasu (Japanese Eggplant), plus the Spicy Tuna Makimano roll with crispy shallot, Asian pear and charred negi aioli. Uchi is our hometown hero, and I’m so proud watching all the chefs that come out of Uchi, but Uchiba has quickly become my favorite of the three, mainly just because of the gorgeous interiors and how it makes me feel. 

Fukumoto — Fukumoto falls into the “reliable standard” category for me, as it’s not my pick for a big night out, but consistently fits the bill for great sushi every night but Sunday, when they are closed. If I’m in East Austin and someone says, “Hey, where do we get sushi?,” this is the spot!

P.s. If you just NEED a quick tuna fix, head to Malibu Poke in Seaholm for a tuna poke bowl, get half sushi rice and half kale as your base, and score!