The aptly named Oishii (Japanese for ‘delicious’) is easy to miss as you’re making your way along Richmond even when you’re moving at snail’s pace at 5:47 p.m. during rush hour. Its faded sign is reminiscent of bad 1990’s pop art and the establishment shares space with a cleaners and convenience store whose garish posters advertising 2-for-$2.22 Snapple drinks are more likely to grab your attention. If, however, you knew what Oishii holds for the lover of thick spherical slices of steamed rice, fish, avocado, wasabi, and even sometimes cream cheese and lobster, i.e., perversely inauthentic, finger-licking-good sushi, your gaze would shift immediately.
Indeed, it’s not the boilerplate array of Americanized sushi and sashimi typical to most Japanese restaurants that positively distinguish Oishii, though you won’t be dissatisfied if you order a California roll or some dragon maki (of which SIX varieties are on offer). The restaurant’s forte is their off-the-wall maki and hand rolls, a collection that includes over 10 named after regular guests for whom they were created. See, for example, the rich Justin & Kasey Roll ($7), with spicy tuna, soft-shell crab, asparagus, and cream cheese, or the Ralph Roll ($9) baked with warm mussels and eel. Other non-namesake offerings are the Cajun maki ($4), a spicy, briny collaboration of chilis and fried oysters and the Houston Roll, an almost over-the-top mash-up of shrimp tempura, eel and cucumber deep-fried tempura style and dressed with mayonnaise and eel sauce. Adorable as well as delicious, the Pink Lady roll combines lightly battered shrimp, crab, and soft asparagus in rose-colored soy paper. Its hue makes it especially appropriate during Breast Cancer Awareness month, but fortunately, it’s available year-round.
These innovative sushi creations priced almost painfully low in combination with the buy-one-get-one-free appetizers (e.g., fried squid, gyoza, pickled tempura, and seafood pancakes) Monday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. leads me to go so far as to say that Oishii may have the best sushi happy hour in Houston. Not the “most elegant” (Uchi deserves that honor) nor the “most likely to get you satiated and slammed” (hat tip to Miyako), but rather the best with regards to offering a comprehensive quality selection of dishes. Given the industrial-strength opinions held by Americanized sushi aficionados in this city, I know many will vehemently contest my claim; I also know, given the long lines and large crowds of smiling patrons, during happy hour that many people feel the same.