After decades of maki roll domination, temaki-style sushi is finally having a moment in Houston. Unlike the typical nori-wrapped rolls that are cut into bite-sized slices, these cylindrical rolls offer a solid portion of seasoned sushi rice and top-notch fish that’s reasonably priced, easy to eat, and served quickly.
As handrolls are trending across the state, Houston recently scored two of its own restaurants devoted to temaki-style sushi, and they’re both in the Heights, which makes it easy to scope out the scene. The first, Handies Douzo, took over a super-cute house at 3510 White Oak Drive, while Hando operates in a more modern, sleeker space that’s only about a mile away on West 11th Street.
Offering a happy medium in between terrible (but i) grocery store sushi and lavishly priced, multi-course omakase services at vaunted sushi establishments like Kata Robata and Uchi, these newcomers are a perfect option for a quick sushi dinner that doesn’t skimp on quality.
Not particularly well-versed in the world of hand rolls? Consider a crash course in temaki sushi via a mini-crawl at Handies Douzo and Hando. For this crawl, there’s no real rules — start at one, end up at the other, and eat a whole lot of excellent raw fish (and more!) along the way.
A project of chefs Daniel Lee and Patrick Pham, who also operate sushi spot Kokoro at Bravery Chef Hall, Handies Douzo boasts a stripped-down, izakaya-style vibe in its tiny space. High-top stools at the 26-seat, U-shaped bar offers the only seating in the restaurant, and it can be a little bit tight when the restaurant is pretty crowded.
Still, Handies Douzo is definitely worth rubbing elbows with strangers. Beginners should definitely try the 3-roll set, which includes a killer spicy tuna roll that’s spiked with habanero and wrapped in perfectly crisp nori, along with Lee and Pham’s bright crudo preparations.
Note: Handies Douzo hasn’t secured its liquor license yet, which means that diners will have to bring their own bottles of sake or wine to share during dinner.
With a slightly lengthier menu, Hando boasts a fun selection of appetizers that’s worth a try. Instead of launching right into the handrolls, start with a bowl of hearty miso soup that’s topped with a fun, slightly spicy yuzu-mustard foam, or perhaps an order of crispy Brussels sprouts that’s showered in bonito flakes and drizzled with Japanese mayo.
Now, onto the handrolls: Like Handies Douzo, Hando offers excellent-quality fish, which means that it’s hard to go wrong with a classic salmon or yellowtail handroll. But also pay close attention to the vegetarian offerings — there’s a great tofu option that’s served with dashi jelly, and a deeply flavored mushroom roll that’s stuffed with enoki, beech, shiitake, and crunchy daikon sprouts.
Unlike Handies Douzo, Hando does have a cocktail menu, and it’s worth checking out. Consider the Sweet Gin Music, a spicy mix of herbal liqueur génépy, Roku gin, habanero, lime, and shishito pepper that’s served in a mug that’s shaped like a pufferfish.
Note: don’t bring cash to Hando — the restaurant only accepts credit cards.