*What is the difference between sushi and sashimi? **What is uni? See answers at the end.
Those are the questions I answered correctly (but not before I consulted a couple of sites online!) for a gift certificate for lunch at Crave Sushi. Offered by the vivacious Cleverley Stone on Facebook, favorite daughter Emilia and I took the drive from the ‘burbs to Midtown - Houston, the land of many new and hip restaurants and ever-creative cuisine.
Known as the ‘Diva of All Things Delicious’ in foodie circles, Cleverley hosts a live show every Saturday from Noon to 1pm on CNN 650 radio. She often selects a restaurant location to set up mobile equipment - interviews and lively discussion about food and the Houston restaurant scene ensues. There was a lively crowd on hand that day (free lunch = happy tummies) which made listening to the show a challenge, but we shared a table with an interesting foodie couple from Sugarland (she is an aeronautical engineer at NASA – how impressive is that?) so it was fun. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again at another Cleverley event.
Cleverley, Chef Robert Garay and Crave Sushi owner, Linny Huong
Sleek and elegant, Crave Sushi’s decorative centerpiece is a large print evocative of traditional Japanese woodcuts depicting a landscape, flowers and geisha (see first picture: she seems cool and indifferent, but I bet she can see everything…). Lustrous white seats contrast with black tablecloths and wall fixtures. The cool palette continues in the blue-gray walls and a pop of brilliant color is present in the crimson napkins and tiny votive candle holders. The restaurant is quite small but is enclosed by large windows on two sides which allows our brilliant Texas light inside. A large mirror behind the bar adds to the feeling of spaciousness.
A full house for lunch
Executive Chef Robert Garay, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, has created a Japanese ‘fusion’ menu that includes Kobe Beef Burgers and Soy-glazed Lamb Chops. But Crave’s Cheetah Roll is all the rage. The story goes that Linny Huong, the young owner of Crave and a former NCAA gymnast, placed a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos™ in front of Chef Garay and challenged him to make a roll. It took only six attempts and the Cheetah Roll was created with Surimi Crab Mix, Cream Cheese, Cucumber, Avocado, Sriracha, Spicy Mayo and Flamin' Hot Cheetos on the inside; Crushed Flamin' Hot Cheetos, Wasabi Cream and Jalapeños on the outside.
Chef Robert Garay graciously offering Crave’s Cheetah Roll after the sushi demonstration.
I never buy Cheetos™ but these camouflaged hotties hit the spot! A cool tip from Chef Robert: before cutting a sushi roll, dip the tip of your knife in water and let it run down the blade. Now you’re ready to make a clean cut. I also learned that, as daunting as it seems, making sushi is not that difficult. All you need is the right equipment, the best ingredients and a little practice. A definite challenge for me in the future!
Seriously spicy with the jalapeño slices!
You can watch Chef Robert make the Cheetah Roll here:
During the show, we were treated to an Oriental buffet which featured Pan-seared and Steamed Pork Gyoza, Roasted Duck Breast in a Spicy Plum Sauce with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, Ahi Poke, Scallops over Udon noodles in a Lobster-butter Sauce, Stir-fry of Shitake, Oyster and Button Mushrooms with Baby Bok Choy; and Green Tea and White Chocolate Creme Brulee.
Cleverley graciously hopped from table to table afterward. She is entertaining and amiable and can be found around Houston with the Cleverley Show, broadcast live on CNN 650 every Saturday from 12 noon –1pm. She can also be seen on FOX 26 on Fridays at 8:30a.m. for Cleverley’s Weekend Dining Picks and Smooth Jazz 95.7 for “All Things Delicious” on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 3:15p.m. For information about future shows go to her website.
Not to leave you without a recipe, here’s my version of Ahi Poke. I like to use Ponzu instead of regular soy sauce, because Ponzu is seasoned with an Asian citrus fruit called yuzu. It’s delicious with tuna.
Dragana’s Ahi Poke Poke means ‘cut piece’ or ‘small piece’ in Hawaiian. It’s a Hawaiian take on Japanese sashimi.
½ cup cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons shallots or onions, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped, optional (I used a red jalapeno from my plant)
4 tablespoons Ponzu (citrus-seasoned soy sauce) or soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar, optional
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Sriracha, to taste
½ teaspoon black sesame seeds
½ teaspoon sesame seeds
¾ lb fresh Ahi tuna loin, cut into ½ inch cubes
Combine all ingredients from the cilantro to the Sriracha. Add tuna and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately with crackers or fried wontons.
After our pleasant experience at Crave Sushi, we drove to the University Co-Op in Uptown Square, and imagine our surprise when we came across CRAVE Cupcakes. We had a great mother/daughter hysterical laughing fit that came from the belly; it felt soo good!
The bakery was packed. $3.25 per cupcake and $39 for a dozen, thank-you-very-much! One can watch them through a glass window, meticulously icing each cupcake…Oh why didn’t I think of this concept?
*Sushi is any rice dish (su is vinegar and meshi is rice, therefore sushi). The rice is usually seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt. Sashimi is sliced raw fish alone.
**Uni is sea urchin!