In their most basic form, sushi maki, or rolls, consist of sushi rice and a simple combination of fillings such as avocado, crabmeat, and cucumber, rolled up in nori seaweed sheets and sliced into bite-size pieces. These days, however, restaurants are adding seriously inventive toppings, sauces, and fillings. Want to try something new, but don’t know where to start? Here are some of Bayou City’s best.

Aka Sushi House

Beloved for its stellar happy hour and reverse-happy-hour deals, this trendy spot’s 20-plus-item Special Maki menu is one of the best in town. Hot-ticket items include the Ninja Roll—spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado, pepper tuna, crumbled goat cheese, honey wasabi, and balsamic soy—and the Spider Mon, an amped-up spider roll topped with fresh salmon, garlic oil, onion, tomato, cilantro, and ponzu.

The Blue Fish

With four successful Houston-area locations—downtown, Washington Avenue, Katy, and The Woodlands—this Dallas-based chain clearly knows what it’s doing. And while there’s a bit of everything on offer, the best-known menu item is the Rainforest Roll. Appetizingly constructed in rainbow hues of red, green, and orange, this masterpiece is filled with shrimp tempura and avocado, topped with salmon and spicy tuna, and garnished with a tantalizing drizzle of eel sauce and spicy mayo.

The Fish

A neighborhood fixture for 16 years, this is the place for lychee martinis, daily happy hour specials, and creative rolls like the Lickety Split—a spicy tuna, softshell crawfish, and cucumber roll topped with yellowtail, salmon, tuna, and avocado, with a house special-sauce trio. Want a show? Get the Volcano Roll filled with baked snow crab and topped with salmon, scallops, and spicy caviar sauce, served in a cast-iron skillet and set on fire table-side. 

Japaneiro’s

Yes, you can order empanadas and churrasco steak from the Latin side of the menu, but those in the know come for the giant shareable sushi boats—filled with nigiri, sashimi, and maki—as well as the 40-plus menu of rolls. The soy-paper-wrapped shrimp-tempura-and-cream-cheese offering known as the Shaggy Dog is always a home run here. For something more creative, ask the server for a recommendation from the secret unprinted menu.

Ka Sushi

For the best experience at this, the first bona fide sushi restaurant in the Heights, order a bit of everything. Start with the whole grilled ika (squid) appetizer, add some nigiri, and finish off with a roll, the most notable of which is the Wagyu Slim, a fried-tempura-crab-stick-and-avocado beauty topped with slices of meltingly tender seared short rib and Thai chiles, in a ginger-sanbaizu sauce. 

Keeper's Japanese Restaurant & Bar

This local favorite keeps people coming back for its consistent, affordable sushi and all-day $10-or-less happy hour specials on a variety of rolls including the Shaggy Dog and the Angry Lion. The most requested regular menu item is the William’s Treasure, a tempura kani, cream cheese, and jalapeño roll topped with crawfish, snow crab, shrimp, spicy mayo, eel sauce, and masago roe.

Michiru Sushi

The sushi chefs at both locations—Webster and Greenway Plaza—go out of their way to plate their rolls artfully. Order the Red Dragon, and you’ll get a roll that looks like a Chinese dragon, with an ingeniously crafted head fashioned from lemon and radish. It’s delicious, but the best roll in the house is the Triton 2.0—a spicy-tuna-and-escolar roll enrobed in kanpachi (amberjack), topped with peppered scallops and jalapeño, and torched to order.

Miyako

This OG chain with locations in the Galleria area and on Washington Avenue dates to 1978. Sushi rolls are king here, and the king of them all is the Flaming Lobster Roll, filled with kani (crab stick) tempura, and avocado, then topped with spicy crawfish, tempura-fried lobster, and eel sauce, served with a side of flaming garlic butter for extra wow factor.

Soma Sushi

At Azuma Restaurant Group’s flagship Washington Avenue restaurant, the large, wraparound sushi bar always delivers top-notch nigiri and sashimi. On the roll front, regulars go bonkers for the signature creation known as the Crazy Irishman—a tempura-fried salmon, tuna, and avocado roll wrapped in green soybean paper, covered with eel sauce and spicy aioli and finished with masago roe, negi onion, and serrano pepper slivers. 

Sushi Tora’s Backdoor

If the rock ’n’ roll vibe at this hidden strip-mall gem doesn’t grab you, the rolls sure will. The most popular offerings are the Kid Rock Roll, the Adam’s Bomb, and the Dylan. For our money, the last one—a spicy soy yellowtail, avocado, and escolar roll punched up with tempura crunch, ponzu, and habanero masago roe—has a slight edge over the rest. 

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Editor’s Pick

Soma Sushi

$$$ Japanese 4820 Washington

Chef Gabe Medina brings his Filipino traditions to the Asian food fest at the five-year-old Soma Sushi, which was first opened by celebrity chef Robert Gadsb...

Michiru Sushi

$$ Japanese, Sushi Multiple Locations

The original location of Michiru Sushi (which opened a second spot in Greenway Plaza in 2012) is known for its inventive, Japanese-inspired dishes that go be...

Keeper’s Japanese Cuisine

$$ Japanese, Sushi 4654 Hwy. 6 S.

Keeper Lin spent two decades as a sushi chef at two of Houston’s well-regarded Japanese restaurants before opening his own place in Sugar Land, Keeper’s Japa...

Editor’s Pick

Ka Sushi

$$ Japanese 1901 N. Shepherd Dr.

Even the (lower sodium) soy sauce is house brewed at Fat Bao owner Pak Sui's highly original Heights sushi house. Small plates include Hamachi Pop—rolls of y...

Japaneiro’s Sushi Bistro & Latin Grill

$$ Japanese, South American, Sushi 2168 Texas Dr.

The big sister restaurant to Guru Burgers & Crepes (and Jupiter Pizza & Waffle, also located in Sugar Land’s Town Square), Japaneiro’s expands upon t...

The Fish

$$ Japanese, Sushi 309 Gray St.

The dark furniture, beautiful plating and inventive menu have kept diners returning to this Midtown sushi staple. The usual sushi and sashimi suspects are av...

The Blue Fish

$$ Japanese Multiple Locations

This fusion spot focuses on Japanese sushi, but dishes also include Korean short ribs and dumplings, Hawaiian poke and originals such as chocolate-filled spr...

Aka Sushi House

$$ Japanese, Sushi 2390 W. Alabama Street

Its fresh sushi and tasty cocktails equally popular, this Upper Kirby hot spot features a single style of ramen at both lunch and dinner: the traditional ton...