the spot: Uroko 1023 Springdale road bldg 1 ste C Austin TX 78721
the eats: handrolls all day!
the bucks: $4.50 – $7 per roll, factor about $20-$25 per person for a reasonable meal
the full nelson: Quality sushi hand rolls at an almost hand roll only sushi spot
Uroko is a fascinating sushi concept: a high quality hand roll only joint that moonlights as a sushi school on Thursdays and a Omakase(Chef’s tasting menu) restaurant by reservation only, on weekends. What this means is if you want to go hard and drop major coin, you have to really mean it. Sushi ain’t cheap and if it is . . . that’s not a good thing. Don’t take short cuts on raw fish a wise ER doctor once said. TBH I didn’t actually hear a doctor say that but I’m sure it has been said before. Back to Uroko and Bang for your Sushi Buck: you can waltz into this little “food hall esque” restaurant and for as little as $20 you can walk out full with about 4 hand rolls in your belly, maybe more if you go for the beef tenderloin or the salmon belly, but not by much.
But is Uroko as good as a premium sushi spot? Well the answer lies in the chef’s pedigree . . .
Chef Masazumi Saio worked at the venerable Uchi for 16 years. I have yet to go to Uchi(though I have dined at their other restaurant Uchiko) and I can tell you Uchi ain’t Cheap Eats. Their prices are staggering, even by NY or LA standards but if you wish to eat top tier sushi . . . it’s where one goes in Austin.
At least, it was. Several restaurants have spun off the chefs from Uchi that also offer a premium sushi experience. And by premium I mean like like four dollar signs on Yelp premium. Uroko is not that. In addition to offering quality hand rolls for about $6 bucks on average, they do a chef’s choice Omakase for $65. Granted it’s a 45 minute meal consisting of 12 offerings but it is still a very reasonable deal for high caliber sushi.
High caliber sushi doesn’t just mean superbly fresh fish either. The rice is as important believe it or not. I mean, would you want to eat tuna that costs anywhere from $40 to $250 and higher a pound on a mound of Uncle Ben’s? Exactly. Sushi chefs must master the art of preparing rice for years before they can move on to fish. Once you have gone to a premium sushi restaurant and then to an All You Can Eat, or worse, eat Supermarket sushi, little details like the rice all of a sudden become huge details.
And the seaweed that wraps the hand roll matters too. That seaweed wrapper(Nori) ain’t the stuff you can find at the “ethnic” aisle of your grocery store. The good stuff costs money and Chef Saio springs for that and the rice. Lesson here is that it just ain’t about the fish. You factor in quality nori and rice and these little torpedoes of pristine seafood goodness are downright steals at $4.50-$7 a pop.
A longtime go to of mine is Spicy Tuna where the mix of intense, beef like raw tuna pairs addictively well with the spice from Sriracha and the creaminess from Masago(Japanese Mayo). Also pictured is the Salmon Belly(always a crowd pleaser), beef tataki and the Saba(mackerel). Mackerel has a reputation of being a fishy fish, which is true of any fish with a high oil content. But when it is fresh, mackerel is a welcomed flavor change from buttery salmon, beefy tuna and ponzu soaked albacore. Add to that minty cool bite of shiso leaf, and you have a mackerel sushi experience usually reserved for a meal that will run you $50 and up.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ll say it flatly: Uroko is a total gem, serving Bang for your Buck Sushi with an emphasis on quality over quantity. In a town where sushi gets abhorrently expensive, Uroko is a sushi refuge for the masses.