The last time we wrote about a new Japanese supermarket heading to the Energy Corridor, well over a year ago, details about the store were scant. All we knew at the time were the basics: That it would be the first U.S. location from Japanese grocery giant Hidejiro Matsu, who was planning an 11,000-square-foot space to anchor an old strip center at 1801 N. Dairy Ashford, and that it was, as of yet, unnamed.
Recently, however, a website and Facebook page for the new store have emerged—as has a name. Say hello to Seiwa Market, which is both the name of a village in Mie Prefecture and the name of Japan's 56th emperor. It's also the name of the unrelated yet gorgeous Japanese Garden in the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
Happily, Seiwa appears to be the equivalent of a Costco for everything from rice wine vinegar to rice. Sadly for Houston, ours is not the first city in the U.S. to get a Seiwa, as initially promised. The first location opened in Costa Mesa, California last month and has so far racked up 18 Yelp reviews that run the gamut from one star to five.
Those five-star reviews praise the same amenities it looks like Houston's location will be getting: "competitive prices," "wide selections," and a "great variety of Japanese snacks and you can buy in bulk."
The lower-star reviews, however, caution that too many items are "sold in bulks," and that the store itself doesn't live up to other Japanese markets, which typically emphasize freshness. "Seiwa is nearly 95% frozen goods," wrote one frustrated Yelper. "Meat, fish etc. is ALL FROZEN from unspecified countries. They have a very small section with some produce but no real selection. There is no fresh anything. No sushi. No deli preparing bentos. No food court like other places. It feels dead."
Here's hoping a livelier Seiwa Market greets Houstonians when it opens its doors—though no one's quite sure when that will be. Despite pleas from fans for an update on the Bayou City location, the Facebook page for Houston's Seiwa Market carries mostly ad flyers and photos for its Costa Mesa store (so don't get confused by those circulars and think they're promos for the Dairy Ashford spot). The good news: All those photos give us a good idea of what Houston's Seiwa Market will look like, and we're excited, especially about the food court, which according to the website, will serve katsu curry, beef bowls, udon and fried chicken.
And in the meantime, there's always Nippan Daido, which not only carries an assortment of fresh fish, produce and sushi, but also offers one of the quickest, easiest, healthiest and cheapest snacks in Westchase: fat, filling triangles of seasoned rice, wrapped in nori paper, stuffed with your choice of salmon, tuna or eel—and only $1.50 each.