Where Locals Go

Sushi Zushi

Review by Frank Geslani   |   Photos by Lorraine Haan-Stewart

For obvious reasons, we think of sushi as a coastal cuisine. Los Angeles, for example, is teeming with sushi establishments, from strip mall dives to gastronomic temples that can set you back a monthâs mortgage payment on an average Westlake McMansion. These days, great sushi can be found anywhere, and the kind of asceticism that once characterized traditional sushi (seasoned rice, a sliver of raw fish, a bit of wasabi, maybe a strip of nori, and little else) has become the exception rather than the norm.  

Texas is technically a coastal state, but arguably its most famous sushi chefs reside in the stateâs interior.  Austinâs enfant terrible, Tyson Cole, has attracted the national spotlight with his restaurants, Uchi and Uchiko. But Cole isnât the only Texas sushi slinger having a moment. In terms of empire building, heâs being quietly outpaced by another Central Texas dynamo, Sushi Zushiâs Alfonso Tomito, who has established two Austin restaurants, four San Antonio locations, one new spot in Dallasâ Uptown and the newest location in Southlake.  

Speaking of having a moment, Tomitoâwho is ethnically Japanese but born in Mexico Cityâis capitalizing on a broader trend: the subtle fusion of Japanese and Latin cuisines. Peruvian-Japanese mash-ups have been touted as the next big thing in sushi. Tomito has taken it a step further with a Mexican-Japanese variation. His delicious hybrids are neither cardinally Japanese nor brazenly Mexican. If anything, his food has a bit of that new-Texan spirit, in the way that Texasâ population explosion seems to have imbued the state with new cultural memes.

This comes across in bold flavors, like the Strawberry Rollâs ($14.50) cool-sweet-tart burst from the freshness of strawberries, sweet shrimp, and the finessed fragrance of kiwi and lime. Itâs in the slow burn of togarashi, a Japanese chili pepper that spices up the River Walk Roll ($16)âa refreshing, rice-free ringlet of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, salad greens and julienned carrot rolled in an opaque sheet of daikon. Itâs in the unexpected, but comforting crunch of fried crawfish tucked into the Oaklawn Roll ($18), coiled uramaki style (âinside-outâ) with either spicy tuna or spicy salmon and avocado.  It is as exquisitely plated, with pearlescent spoonfuls of colorful tobiko (flying fish roe), as it is outsized in personalityâcowboy boots under the ball gown.

The menu has over 400 items.  In lesser hands, itâs overkill. At Sushi Zushi, itâs thrilling. Most items are priced roughly in the mid-teens, with items like toro (fatty tuna) predictably fetching the highest coin (about $25). Portions are generous, and their price points leave enough wiggle room to explore.  Not in the mood for raw? The staff may steer you in the direction of Green Mussels Dynamite ($8), bivalves baked with a spicy mayo, eel sauce and chives. Or, craving comfort food? Acquaint yourself with the soothing pleasures of Japanese curry rice ($4-$7). Want a little show with dinner?  The Tower ($15)âspicy tuna or salmon atop sushi rice, garnished with four types of tobiko and drizzled with wasabi cream sauceâis finished tableside. The restaurant successfully accommodates many palates, including vegans and the gluten intolerant.

However you view the breadth of Sushi Zushiâs menu, it is only expected to expand marginally. The one anticipated addition is a Southlake-specific roll that aims to endear itself further with the locals.

General Manager, Amy Dodd, revealed plans for a Facebook contest to design a new roll in honor of the Southlake location.  Sushi has indeed come a long way from the coast.

1420 E. Southlake Boulevard    |    Southlake 76092    |    (817) 310-3191    |    www.sushizushi.com