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The Top 5 Japanese Restaurants in Downtown Houston

The Top 5 Japanese Restaurants in Downtown Houston 

Our Criteria: 

Sushi: When creating sushi, only the freshest, highest-quality seafood should be used. The sushi we tried was selected with care, taking into account the color and flavor of the fish.
Food Presentation: Authentic Japanese restaurants have mastered the art of minimalism in food presentation. Therefore, we considered the fact that the vast majority of actual meals are served in the shape of attractive, bite-sized portions. 
Menu: The menus at most traditional Japanese restaurants are quite small and focus on a few of the chef’s signature dishes rather than a wide selection of other meals. 
Service Etiquette: Politeness in service is highly valued in Japanese society. So, we thought about how quickly, accurately, and pleasantly we were served.

1. Kokoro

Website: Kokoro

Address: 409 Travis St #366, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Contact Info: +1 409-420-2560

Hours: Monday to Wednesday: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Thursday: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Friday to Saturday: 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM

  Sunday: 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Google Reviews Score4.7/5
Yelp Reviews Score4.5/5
Facebook Reviews Score4.3/5
Total Reviews4.5/5
Score Consistency4.5/5
Sushi4.7/5
Food Presentation 4.7/5
Menu4.5/5
Service Etiquette4.5/5

Pros

  • Smoky yakitori
  • Flavorful sushi

Cons

  • Metallic tasting crab roll

Kokoro has a reputation in the community for being a restaurant specializing in sushi and yakitori with an easygoing counter-service. Some even claimed it’s one of Houston’s best affordable sushi places. 

At least, that’s what we were told. Kokoro is located in the Bravery Chef Hall, which can best be described as an elegant open market—so you can get drinks from other places if you wish. 

Be prepared, though, to wait to get a table at Kokoro if you go during the busiest times of the day. When we went to Kokoro, we liked how the personnel were helpful and organized. 

The menu was organized in a way that made it simple to read and understand the different entrees. We got their yakitori and a variety of sushi rolls. 

Regarding the sushi rolls, we liked the Ebi Maki, the Spicy Tuna Maki, and the BGB King Sake Maki. All of these were flavorful, and the fish melted in our mouths. 

Additionally, the presentation of each sushi roll was aesthetically pleasing. We, however, didn’t like their crab roll as the crab tasted metallic, as if it had been left in a can for too long. 

As for their yakitori, we liked the charcoal taste of the chicken as it wasn’t overpowering but contributed to the overall smoky flavor of the skewers.

2. Taka Sushi & Ramen

Taka Sushi & Ramen

Address:  930 Main St Suite T240-C, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Hours: Monday to Friday: 10:00 AM to 2:30 PM 

Saturday to Sunday: Closed

Google Reviews Score4.2/5
Total Reviews4.2/5
Score Consistency4.2/5
Sushi4.5/5
Food Presentation 4.5/5
Menu4/5
Service Etiquette4.5/5

Pros

  • To-go sushi available 
  • Fresh and crisp salmon 
  • Large nigiris 

Cons

  • Salty ramen broth
  • Overloaded rice in rolls

Taka Sushi & Ramen is the place to go for great sushi when you’re on the go, but they also offer dine-in options. At least, that’s what we were told.

When we went to Takesushi Ramen, we liked their casual atmosphere and how the staff promptly catered to both couples and families waiting at nearby tables. 

We decided to get the salmon lover combo because it included a selection of salmon prepared in various ways and other types of sushi. 

We liked how the salmon did not have an odor, and it had an appealing presentation. It was also crisp and flavor impaired well with the rice. 

Furthermore, we liked how the rice was not overloaded with vinegar, nor was it stale. The rice in the sushi remained whole when lifted up, yet fell apart and crumbled into pieces with each mouthful. 

Moreover, the nigiri was served in larger portions but still had a decent proportion of rice and fish. On the other hand, the amount of rice to fish in the sushi rolls we tried was too much. 

The rice was squished and compacted, so it didn’t crumble easily in our mouths. We also didn’t like the ramen as the soup base had a lot of salt in it. 

3. Sapporo

Website: Sapporo

Address: 801 Congress St #101, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Contact Info:  +1 832-491-0337

Hours: Monday to Thursday: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Friday: 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM

Saturday to Sunday: 12:00 PM to 11:00 PM

Google Reviews Score4.5/5
Yelp Reviews Score4.5/5
Facebook Reviews Score3.7/5
Total Reviews4.5/5
Score Consistency4.5/5
Sushi4.5/5
Food Presentation 4.5/5
Menu4.5/5
Service Etiquette3.5/5

Pros

  • Vast selection of sushi
  • Delicious calamari salad
  • Meaty shrimp fried rice
  • Appetizing shumai
  • Large bento boxes

Cons

  • Slow service
  • Unpleasant tasting sea bass
  • Tasteless vegetable tempura

The vast majority of people we questioned about Sapporo mentioned the restaurant’s impressive selection of specialty rolls and sushi, all of which were described as high quality. 

After our own experience at Sapporo, we can attest that Sapporo has a nice selection of authentic Japanese cuisine, sushi, and specialty rolls to choose from on its menu.

We first noted the lack of service at the entrance, as many people were standing around aimlessly waiting for a table. It took about half an hour before we were seated. 

To start, we had a delicious cold calamari salad that was a bit chewier than we would have liked but was still good. Next up was the shrimp fried rice, which had huge, meaty whole shrimps and chopped shrimp, so we liked how they weren’t stingy with the meat. 

 We also ordered the steamed shumai as an appetizer, which was absolutely brimming with flavor. 

Regarding our main entrees, we liked how there was more than enough food in the bento box to make two separate meals. We had the option of ordering chicken or steak teriyaki, vegetable tempura, egg roll, crab rangoon, miso soup, and a crab roll. 

The portions in the bento box were large, and everything tasted fresh. We did, however, think the vegetable tempura lacked flavor, and the sea bass we ordered too was of poor quality. 

They put something on the sea bass with a very strong garlic flavor, which completely overpowered the flavor of the fish and made it taste unpleasant. Also, the fish itself was extremely firm. 

4. Izakaya

Website: Izakaya

Address:  318 Gray St, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Contact Info: +1 713-527-8988

Hours: Monday to Friday: 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM , 5:00 to 10:00 PM 

Saturday: 12:00 PM to 11:00 PM

Sunday: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM 

Google Reviews Score4.5/5
Yelp Reviews Score4/5
Facebook Reviews Score4.3/5
Total Reviews4/5
Score Consistency4/5
Sushi3.7/5
Food Presentation 4/5
Menu3.7/5
Service Etiquette3.7/5

Pros

  • Spicy and flavorful tonkotsu ramen
  • Budget-friendly Sunday specials 
  • Large ramen portions

Cons

  • Unsophisticated staff
  • Filthy restrooms
  • Deceiving menu

Some claim that dining at Izakaya is more for the atmosphere than the food itself, as it’s more of a fusion than authentic Japanese. While others have raved to us about their Sunday afternoon specials, specifically their ramen. 

However, after dining at Izakaya, there is some truth to the claims we’ve heard. 

We opted to go on Sunday afternoon to catch their specials available from 12 to 4 in the afternoon. Izakaya discounts their ramen by almost half the price. 

One of the first things we noted about Izakaya was that we had to pay for parking. Moreover, when we first walked in, we saw an employee smoking a vaporizer. 

Not a deal breaker by any means, but the establishment lacked sophistication, and the toilets were filthy. 

As far as food goes, we tried both the traditional tonkotsu ramen and the mazemen. The traditional tonkotsu ramen was spicy and delicious. 

We liked how the chashu pork absorbed the flavor from the broth. On the other hand, the mazemen ramen was a little on the dry side, yet it was still full of flavor. 

Regardless, we liked how large both portions of ramen were. 

We also placed an order for dumplings, which were delivered on this enormous plate, but there were only four dumplings in the serving. So, the presentation of their dumplings on the menu appeared to be deceiving. 

Additionally, we sampled a few of their sushi rolls, and the fish had a pungent aftertaste. 

5. Benihana

Website: Benihana

Address: 409 Travis St #366, Houston, TX 77002, United States

Contact Info:  +1 713-659-8231

Hours: Monday to Friday: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Saturday: 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM

Sunday: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Google Reviews Score4.1/5
Yelp Reviews Score2.5/5
Facebook Reviews Score3.7/5
Total Reviews4/5
Score Consistency4/5
Sushi3/5
Food Presentation 3/5
Menu3.9/5
Service Etiquette4.3/5

Pros

  • Polite staff
  • Fresh and tasty salmon 
  • Interesting avocado tartar sauce
  • Free parking 

Cons

  • Chaotic atmosphere
  • Filthy tables
  • Inconsistent sushi freshness

To begin, one thing that stood out to us about Benihana was that they paid for our parking in the underground garage. 

Even though we had a reservation at Benihana, we decided to sit at a regular table there instead. We saw that the tables surrounding us were filthy and appeared to have never been wiped down or cleaned. 

Because the guests waiting for their table were allowed to use this area as a waiting area, people were near our table waiting most of the time we were there. 

If you’re used to more laid-back and relaxing restaurants, you might find the ambiance here somewhat nerve-wracking and hectic. 

Despite this, the waitress who attended to us was cordial and kept a close eye on us as we waited for our main entrees. 

We also ordered a salmon dish which was fresh and flavorful. 

While the seaweed tasted fresh, the freshness of the fish used was hit and miss.

In addition to that, we had a salmon dish that was quite tasty and fresh. We liked the side salad’s ginger dressing and the tangy flavor it brought to the overall meal.

Additionally, the avocado tartar sauce served alongside the salmon entrée was an interesting twist on the conventional Japanese salmon dinners.

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