| by Courtney Dabney | photography by Jason Kindig | The reason for this bankable success has been a creative take on sushi, so much of which in our area has been Anglicized or dumbed down in an effort to market to Texans’ typically timid palates.
Piranha took a decidedly different path. They took a traditional Japanese dish and introduced flavors from all over the Pacific Rim. Owner Kenzo Tran spiced his sushi up with jalapeños, Sriracha sauce and chili paste, which is a complete departure from classic and clean Japanese forms that offer the simplicity of the freshest fish, rice wine vinegar infused rice and little other flavor than salty nori seaweed or fish eggs.
Texans dig on spicy foods, and Tran tapped into that market and plied his sushi creations to the awaiting crowd. Many of the offerings on the menu have a Thai or Vietnamese flavor with the addition of cilantro, mango and heat. You will notice the word “spicy” sprinkled liberally across the menu.
But, not everything has that much flavor. Unfortunately, on my most recent visit, I was struck by how bland most of the dishes seemed. That is not usually the case. In fact, after eating Piranha Sushi over the years, my expectations were high as I sat down to the busy sushi bar. This is the first time that I have ever been disappointed.
I saw a chef creation headed to a nearby table and pointed it out to my server. But my “I’ll have what she’s having moment” was cut short. It was a lightly seared Tuna Tataki ($9.95) with sesame seeds, jalapeño slices, micro greens and a drizzle of truffle oil. The thinly sliced white tuna was fresh and velvety, but there was no flavor. The truffle oil tasted more like plain oil, and not even the jalapeño could give it a kick.
For my main course, I tried the Sushi and Sashimi Dinner hoping to improve my odds. The dish was an array of five unique rolls and seven slices of sashimi fanned neatly on a green marble tile with a martini glass centerpiece filled with tuna ceviche. It was plentiful and colorful. The tuna ceviche with red onions and a soy-based spicy dressing was the best part of the dish.
We also sampled a Vietnamese Summer Roll ($12.95), which was crispy and fresh. The healthy option was wrapped in rice paper and filled with salmon, tuna, crab, greens, mango and crunchy asparagus.
The space has had a recent update with a glowing backlit bar and uber-modern touches. There are bright oranges, reds and plenty of warm wood tones to make the space cozy. It’s a perfect fit for the buzzing young professional crowd. There is an ornate kimono hanging behind glass by the front door and a central sushi bar with additional seating, with mostly banquettes surrounding the big show.
The sushi chefs are friendly, made even more so by a generous party at the end of the bar, who bought them at least three sake shots throughout their meal. At Piranha the food is always pristinely fresh and presentations are typically elaborate and inventive