Don’t let the old world charm of the building fool you. Indeed, you’ll discover a thriving Japanese restaurant neatly tucked inside the stone walls. And the sushi at Izakaya WA in Houston, Texas, is absolutely divine.
Late in 2016, on a business trip to Houston, my husband and I were stumped about where to eat dinner. We’d already taken clients to another sushi restaurant, and we’d eaten Tex Mex the night before. Being the clever girl that I am, I put my iPhone to work.
It was time to find yet another delish sushi restaurant, preferably in the West Houston area.
Imagine my surprise when Izakaya WA popped up as the answer to my question. The restaurant had strong reviews in favor of the place and many of the reviewers also spoke of the unique building the restaurant is housed in. I told Dave that this is where we would have our business dinner for the evening. He agreed, and I can’t tell you just how delighted I am to bring this review to you, my passionate foodie reader.
One thing I’ve learned over the years as both a traveler and a foodie is to never judge a restaurant by what it looks like on the outside. Sure, there are plenty of eateries housed within beautiful walls. But you know what? There are plenty of eateries snuggled within what may seem like a less than ideal building.
And I will tell you this, too, my friend: You’re driving by many an outstanding eatery when you turn your nose up at what seems like a dive (or worse). Just because a restaurant doesn’t look like what you think it should doesn’t mean it’s a bad place to eat.
That’s the golden rule of being a foodie. Yes, I’m preaching Foodie 101. You didn’t expect that, but there it is.
It goes without saying that I’ve never considered eating sushi in a Swiss chalet, but you know what? I also didn’t think I’d get married again. “Never say never,” was one of my Daddy’s favorite mantras.
When we arrived, the house was full of guests, so we were asked if we would mind sitting outside. As the evening was
quite pleasant, albeit a bit rainy, we were happy to be seated at a wooden table outside, which is fashioned as an enclosed area underneath a roomy tent. Our host was quick to light the tall, propane heater next to us. It felt quite cozy, even though we were seated at a wooden picnic table.
With our hearts warmed, we proceeded to peruse the menu. There’s quite a bit of choice, and some were Japanese dishes I’d not seen before.
All the more reason to whet my appetite and get my creative juices flowing.
Although it was a difficult choice to order a meal that combined food we’d eaten before (and always order no matter
what sushi bar we’re at) with a few new dishes, we had plenty of help from the waitstaff. Both the waitress and waiter who served us were most helpful with all the questions I asked.
I am the girl who asks a million questions before choosing her meal. After peppering the waitstaff with questions, I know it’s a great place if the person who’s waiting on me is still smiling and helpful.
Folks, Izakaya WA is all that AND a platter of nigiri.
Our newest Japanese dish to try was chirashi. It’s a bowl of delicately steamed sticky rice topped with various kinds of fish (sushi) and fresh vegetables. The menu offers several varieties of this dish and numerous fish to choose from.
The dish came highly recommended by our waitress. Dave and I were most impressed with the dish. Even better, it’s far too much food for one person to devour, so order a bowl and share it with someone you love.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For starters, we chose miso soup and edamame. I assume if you’re reading this, you know what both of those foods are. But I won’t assume anything, right? It’s quite possible that you’re here to learn.
If you haven’t tried miso, this soup is an excellent choice for those of you (like me) who follow ketogenic and/or anticancer and cancer preventative diets. Miso is fermented, which is excellent for the gut. Not only is miso healing, but it provides so much good nutrition that it’s almost impossible to find other foods as important for your health. If you are willing to make one positive change, drink a bowl of miso soup every day. Your tummy will appreciate it and your body will feel oh-so very good!
All that said, edamame is also a great choice for healthy foodies as the vegetable is high in protein. Edamame, in case you don’t know, is just a pod of young soybeans. Not only is edamame delicious, but it’s a food you can feel good about eating. My husband is amused that I eat the pods of small edamame. All in one bite. Well, they are easy to chew and digest, and man, they are so good. That’s my argument. Why not eat the whole thing?
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
We also indulged in some Texas-made beer. Since it was prior to Christmas, and after our jaunt to Winter’s Eve A Christmas Festival in Wimberley, we were feeling festive. It was a thumbs up from all to imbibe with beer. Izakaya WA’s daily special menu included several Shiner beers, so we chose the Holiday Cheer Beer. It was warming and tasty. Very appropriate for the occasion, which was one of holiday cheer and celebration.
We typically choose Asahi, but couldn’t resist a crafted-in-Texas seasonal beer. The move proved to be the right thing to do.
So with good conversation and company, we sipped beer, ate through the edamame and miso, then dug into the chirashi. We’d also ordered salmon and tuna nigiri and one of Izakaya WA’s signature rolls: the Memorial.
With buttery tuna in my mouth chased by a swig of beer then a bite of pickled ginger to cleanse my palate, I have to say that the tuna nigiri was just as tasty. I prefer salmon – all kinds, mind you – but tuna’s nice every once and a while, too. I try not to eat too much of it due to mercury levels. Izakaya WA hadn’t disappointed me yet, and while my tummy was getting full, we had a dish or two to go.
Throughout our meal, the waitstaff was stellar. I have absolutely no complaints regarding the service that our party received. I must admit that I was hesitant to sit in the damp, chilly air on a mid-December night, but once the heater next to our table was turned on, my fear dissipated.
The Memorial roll arrived and it was worth the wait. This roll also made the evening culminate into a nice ending. Folks, you have to try this one! It’s topped with the same buttery salmon we had for nigiri, and filled with your choice of either spicy tuna or spicy salmon, and avocado. The insides are encased in seaweed and rolled in sticky rice. Topping off the salmon pieces carefully laid on top of the roll are bits of green onion and spicy mayo.
Typically, a sushi bar’s signature rolls are fabulous. The Memorial roll is not to be missed, so when you visit Izakaya WA, be sure to include this in your order. The Memorial roll delighted Dave and me, so we will order this one again.
Yes, as you’ve guessed, we will be back at Izakaya when we are in Houston for business (or pleasure!).
Normally, we don’t eat dessert. Most of our meals when we’re traveling involve an appetizer or two and the entree. Every now and again, Mr. Carter and I enjoy a sweet treat.
Tonight was one of those nights when our sweet teeth were calling the shots, and I’m glad we gave the green tea ice cream a go. Talk about fancy – you can see for yourself just how delightful this dessert was. I dig green tea, so it wasn’t a big stretch to eat it as ice cream. Be sure when you order this ice cream to ask for two scoops. That’s my insider tip to make this one stretch for more than one person.
Because Izakaya WA’s menu is so extensive, I’m offering what else I’d try when I visit again. I’d love a nasu (eggplant on a skewer) and perhaps a shizuka (chef’s choice of five skewered veggies). The tako wasabi (spicy, marinated raw octopus with wasabi root) sounds great as does the negihama roll (yellowtail with green onion). But who knows? I might find something else that strikes my fancy.
The truth is, you’ve got a traditional Japanese menu with all kinds of super food to try. The rolls, in particular, feature something for everyone: there’s beef, seared and cooked meats and fish as well as raw. Please don’t think you must eat raw fish in order to frequent this restaurant because that would be the wrong impression to have. You and yours will have plenty to choose from and, I promise, you’ll be satisfied as you walk out the door.
Thanks, Izakaya WA for taking such good care of us. We had a blast and deffo will be back soon!
Izakaya WA Sushi Restaurant is located at 12665 Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas 77024. The phone number is Phone number (713) 461-0155. The restaurant is the only Japanese owned izakaya in Houston, so this place is pretty special and not to be missed. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 pm. for lunch; Monday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for dinner; Friday 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. for dinner; Saturday 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. for dinner; Sunday 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for dinner.
Reservations can be made by calling (713) 461-0155.
That leaves seven days a week of feasting. You can bet that if I lived in West Houston, Izakaya WA would be a fave stop.
When visiting, the restaurant is behind Compass Bank on Memorial Drive. It can be a bit confusing to find, so turn into the bank’s parking lot, and drive behind it. Once you’re there, you cannot miss Izakaya WA.
This is a family-friendly restaurant with access for disabled individuals. Credit cards are accepted and you can call in a take out order (no deliveries). In addition to standard non-alcoholic drinks, the beer and wine list offer many brews and varietals.