Editor's note: This is the first in a regular series on the alternate world of the Houston tunnel system. It's time to go underground.
I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for a punny restaurant name. I want coffee from The Daily Grind, red velvets from Hey, Cupcake!, and egg rolls from Wok & Roll. So when a make-your-own sushi joint called How Do You Roll opens in the downtown tunnels, well, I'm there.
My time in the tunnels has taught me that I apparently navigate the world using the positioning of the sun, because once I go underground I never make it back out without making a wrong turn at least twice. But even by tunnel standards, How Do You Roll is a little out of the way, located in the green tunnel underneath Commerce Towers, near Main and Walker.
How Do You Roll is a an Austin concept that's so simple it's somewhat amazing no one has done it before. Start with either a seaweed or soy wrap, add rice, vegetables, proteins, toppings, and sauces and boom! Sushi deliciousness.
My time in the tunnels has taught me that I apparently navigate the world using the positioning of the sun, because once I go underground I never make it back out without making a wrong turn at least twice.
That's a lot of decisions, but luckily the staff is really friendly and helpful. (Or you could also pick from the standard rolls, like Cali and Unagi.) There are plenty of veggie options to choose, from traditional sprouts and cucumber to baby spinach, avocado and jalepeño, and even decided non-veggies like cream cheese, tofu skin and egg omelet.
I was less thrilled with the meats section, which is mostly cooked proteins, including beef, chicken, crawfish tails, "crabsticks," unagi and smoked salmon. The raw section has only regular or spicy escolar, salmon or tuna in addition to potential seasonal choices. That's pretty weak.
And yet the free toppings at the end of the line made me very happy. Sesame seeds? Crunchy tempura? Yes please.
When all was said and done, I ended up with a seaweed wrap, white rice, raw salmon, sprouts, cucumber, avocado, crunchy tempura and teriyaki sauce. My friend went with seaweed, white rice, escolar, jalepeño, cucumber and green onion with sesame seeds and creamy miso sauce. No, neither are breaking any new ground in the sushi world, but for $6.50 I'm not complaining. Kata Robata it isn't — there was a disappointing blandness to all the ingredients (even the jalepeño) though the salmon did fair a little better, partly from the sweet teriyaki glaze.
It so happened that when we stopped by, How Do You Roll was offering free drinks and free sides (we got edamame and a seaweed salad, both OK, but unremarkable), so the meal went from a decent deal to a pretty good one.
The HDYR offerings don't quite live up to the fun of the name, but it's still a decent alternative to unhealthy tunnel fast food that does not consist of a sandwich or salad. Most importantly, it's several magnitudes better than bringing grocery store sushi to work.
Do you have a sushi secret in the tunnels? Are you already sick of the name How Do You Roll?