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Sparks Fly at Sushi Roku

Light and hearty fare walks a tightrope at Austin's new upscale sushi restaurant

Spicy Tuna Spicy Yellowtail and Avocado Hanabi (Photo by Richard Casteel, courtesy of IDG)

The Tribeza team enjoyed many excellent bites during the soft opening of Sushi Roku, but a few stood out. Food set ablaze with a handheld torch caught our eye, of course. We loved the flame put to rosemary, cotton candy, and wood chips too, but the throwbacks to childhood junk food, revamped as sophisticated adult bites worth going back for, held our rapt attention. 

Dining Room at Sushi Roku (photo by Richard Casteel, courtesy of IDG)

With Sushi Roku locations in Pasadena, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, and Newport Beach, Innovative Dining Group’s first Lone Star outpost might feel like an upscale taste of home has followed the California transplants already resettled in Austin. Co-founded by Michael Cardenas (a one-time general manager for Matsuhisa – the restaurant created by Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa), as well as Lee Maen and Phil Cummins (who have been on-site in Austin building the restaurant and overseeing the launch), Innovative Dining Group (IDG) bets on their crowd-pleasing menu to satisfy Texan appetites. 

Sushi Roku
(photo by Richard Casteel, courtesy of IDG)

Comfort and Creativity 

Brussels Sprout Chips with truffle oil and salt sent us back in time. Thin-as-lace and delicately crisp, with a melt-on-your-tongue texture, the plate teleported us back to childhood days snack times with our favorite potato chips. More callbacks appeared with the Hanabi appetizer, the “signature crispy rice” with antecedents at restaurants like Nobu and parallels in cultures around the globe. Layered on a tiny rice roll as golden-red as a tater tot, the crunchy edible held a heap of either spicy tuna, spicy yellowtail, or avocado in rich, soulful bites. For a little table drama, fat stalks of asparagus wrapped in beef ribeye arrived steaming on a mini but searing hot grill, with drizzled soy mirin sauce on the savory, earthy nourishment. Hefty, little pockets of American Wagyu Potsticker Gyoza reminded us of mom’s meatloaf. Chopsticks sped for the small pile of kimchi served with the gyoza, showing us what the old American staple dinner lacked. Finally, Carnival Cake stole the show for the dessert course, a pink cotton candy cloud lit with a torch and raining deep pink sugar on a Japanese-style cheesecake and ice cream beneath. Carnival Cake alone is worth a reservation. The tableside sparkler only added to the already photo-worthy moment. 

Sushi Roku (photo by Richard Casteel, courtesy of IDG)

Lean In, Lick the Bowl

On the lighter side, the Waterloo Ichi Roll, an Austin-exclusive of rice paper and greens around tuna, yellowtail, and snow crab nestled cooly next to avocado, mango, and cucumbers, is easily a new favorite roll. Tender and succulent, we nearly licked the bowl of cold Hamachi Serrano with garlic and yuzu ponzu. With delicate yellowtail, salmon, albacore, and tuna, the clean, soft bites of nigiri proved the sushi restaurant could deliver on its namesake. Tiny tastes of truffle on the albacore make a must-try.

Shogun Glory cocktail at Sushi Roku (photo by Richard Casteel, courtesy of IDG)

As for cocktails, alongside a menu of Japanese beer and Zero-Proof Mocktails, we loved the bitter Ueshima Old Fashioned featuring “espresso-washed” Whistlepig Piggyback rye. Our server lit the rosemary garnish at the table, not to be outdone by the sweeter Smokin’ Yuzu mezcal cocktail, served with a little wooden top holding wood chips also set aflame, smoking liquid below.

Chef Sang at Sushi Bar
Chef Sang at Sushi Roku (photo by Richard Casteel, courtesy of IDG)

Sushi Roku is newly open on the ground floor at 405 Colorado Street. Reservations can be made at