Where Locals Go

Cowtown Sushi

Review by Frank Geslani | Photos by Lorraine Haan-Stewart

You’ve heard it before: people eat with their eyes first. Don’t believe it? Order something at the sushi counter at Cowtown Sushi—and then prepare yourself for a feast before you’ve even taken a bite.

“Plating” is something of an afterthought in suburban eateries. (We are thankful for the occasional sprig of parsley on our chicken-fried protein.) But, in an unassuming Southlake strip mall, tucked between an Albertson’s and a Blockbuster, some of the most pleasing and innovative food in the region is being freshly prepared and plated.

Cowtown’s chef and owner, Pat Dao, has taken artful design and translated it for the plate. Take for example, the three tuna martini—layers of super white tuna, albacore and big eye (red) tuna—perfumed in sesame oil and ginger, studded with caviar and smelt roe and speared with a towering sesame-rice cracker. Served in an illuminated martini glass—the presentation is one part Vegas spectacular and one part Shanghai skyline. And, it all goes down smoother than a Malibu sunset.

Short of somersaults, his tuna does some pretty amazing things. It’s seared with a smoky, garlicky punch in the Cajun tuna sashimi, then reappears in the pepper tuna with avocado lime sauce. Same fish, entirely different experience. In the latter, slices of avocado blanket the expertly seared tuna in a satisfying fattiness. The avocado lime sauce adds another layer of exotica, this time via Thailand.

Atkins devotees would feel sufficiently sated without venturing past this corner of the menu, but if you’re up for a healthy carboload, order the most playful makizushi (rolled sushi) around. Don’t worry if you still haven’t come around to raw fish. The Mt. Fuji Roll—fried shrimp tempura, crab meat, cream cheese, avocado, wrapped in rice, nori and more crab atop spicy mayo and sweet soy sauce—pushes all of those easy-to-access comfort food buttons.

If you’re ready to raw it up a bit more, try the delicately flavored Hybrid Roll. Tuna, salmon, avocado and chives are rolled in a soybean wrapper with a layer of smelt roe, then rolled again in a rice wrapper instead of the traditional nori seaweed. The “hybrid” in this instance implies Dao’s ability to channel flavors from different cultures and cuisines, but like the eponymous eco-friendly cars, “hybrid” also represents progress.

Sushi and sashimi require precise knife skills and a discriminating palate, qualities often taken for granted in an age when people have passively capitulated to grocery-store sushi. Dao and his capable crew have opened our eyes (and our palates) to the potential of raw fish. So, don’t consider what I’m about to say as just another plug for the restaurant. Instead, consider it a challenge. Tuna and salmon are great at Cowtown Sushi, but take a step out of your comfort zone. Pat Dao knows what he’s doing, and he’s got your back. Let him take you places with his food. Once you go there, you won’t go back to just any other sushi again.

Cowtown Sushi | 2225 W. Southlake Boulevard | Suite 411 | Southlake | ( 817) 310-0089  |  cowtownsushi.com