How to get Houston’s fanciest sushi for almost half the price

Would you believe me if I told you you could eat Houston‘s most acclaimed sushi for almost half the price? The happy hour menu at Montrose Uchi’s hot spot is by no means a secret, but it can’t hurt to spread the word to Houstonians who crave Japanese dishes that won’t drain your savings.

Good sushi is often way beyond the budget of the average restaurant. High-quality, sushi-grade raw fish is expensive on its own, and you want it to be, because it’s best that the raw seafood you eat doesn’t poison you. On top of that, high-end Japanese restaurants often import the crème de la crème of salmon, tuna, or some rare species from top-notch suppliers in Japan.

While there’s certainly some great budget sushi in Houston—my favorite is Oishii in Richmond, if you can wait—many high-end sushi restaurants often make me wish I’d chosen a more lucrative career. There is of course Kata Robata, the benchmark for Japanese restaurants run by chef Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi. The new Soto in Montrose is a luxurious, sometimes theatrical experience. And on Westheimer Road, Uchi has stood on the corner of Grant near Montrose Boulevard for 10 years.

Uchi’s happy hour menu features signature dishes that aren’t on the basic menu, like this dish of pork belly, shallot, and pineapple served with soy aioli.

Emma Baller

Uchi Houston grew out of the pioneering Austin restaurant of the same name, which opened in the Texas capital in 2003. Owner Tyson Cole and his umbrella restaurant group Hai Hospitality have grown significantly since then. There are now five Uchi locations, including two out of state; the Houston outpost opened in 2012. Sister concept Uchiko has locations in Austin and Houston, there’s an Uchiba bar in Dallas, and most recently Cole teamed up with barbecue legend Aaron Franklin to create Loro, an Asian smokehouse you can find in the highlands.

I’ve eaten at many of the best restaurants in Houston, but hadn’t been to Uchi until this week, simply because I didn’t think I could afford it. Until recently, I hadn’t managed to find out that destination Montrose offered a daily happy hour from 4-6 p.m., offering a robust menu of sushi and other bites, as well as a limited wine selection, of beers and sakes, at reduced prices. The restaurant has been offering it since the first day it opened.

So I made a reservation on a whim this week and eventually slid my feet under Uchi’s sushi counter. There are fewer choices on the happy hour menu than on the basic menu, but there are still plenty of choices to order from. There are regular nigiri and rotating nigiri made with specialty fish, maki rolls, and non-sushi cold and hot dishes.

This duo of nigiri costs $18 on the regular menu but

This nigiri duo is $18 on the regular menu but “only” $10 on Uchi’s happy hour menu.

Emma Baller

The majority of dishes on Uchi’s special happy hour menu are exclusive to him, but there are a few crossovers. The Spicy Crunchy Tuna Roll is only $9 for the first two hours after the doors open, down from $13.50 thereafter. The kurodai and managatsuo nigiri cost $4 and $6 respectively, down from $8 and $10.

“The idea behind Uchi Happy Hour is to create a special dining experience that stands out from the normal Uchi experience,” said Amber Quist, Chief Brand Officer of Hai Hospitality. “To provide an entry point for many new customers and a varied experience for our existing customers at great value.”

Between me and my table companion, who unlike me wasn’t super hungry, we ordered three makimono rolls, two nigiri, two “hot tasting” dishes and a dessert. The total – without our drinks, tax or tip – was $52 for two people. If we had ordered the same dishes or the equivalent on the regular dinner menu, it would have cost around $90. And we got the same friendly service and vibe as if we were shelling out more cash.

Although still a special occasion meal for me, I was pleased to find that Uchi’s happy hour is very good value. As long as you are ready to dine at the most inopportune hour, it can be yours too.

About James Almanza

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