Japanese Restaurant Silhouette Ever since Mimosa’s closed (huge portions, lousy service), I’ve been looking for a sushi-ya to satisfy my cravings for wasabi, pickled ginger, and vinegared rice morsels. Uchi is outside my lunch budget; fortunately Austin has a lot more Japanese restaurants than it did 20 years ago when Kyoto was the lone exotic alternative to Tex Mex and BBQ.

The first thing that hits you as you wander into Silhouette (718 Congress Ave) is the smell, a strong almost overpowering scent of ammonia cleanser. I wondered if I’d be able to taste what I was eating. Fortunately by the time the food arrived my nostrils had forgotten it. However, the scent does make a bad first impression. My mind kept straying to it. Maybe it’s not cleanser. Maybe it’s the finish on the wood floors.

Silhouette is darkly attractive. The long narrow room is broken up by an antique bar. The bar, the wooden floors, and the Chinese red walls combined reminded me more of a 19th century San Francisco saloon than a Japanese restaurant. I found the juxtapositon intriguing. The music was just right–upbeat world music (with a Japanese flavor, but not typical J-pop)–and not too loud.

Monday is all-day sushi happy hour at Silhouette but we stuck with the lunch specials (under $10 for one sushi roll and 7 pieces of nigiri sushi). Most Japanese restaurants include miso soup and a salad with their lunch specials. Silhouette had us choose. We rounded out our meal with bubble tea. I ordered the avocado one just because it sounded weird. I couldn’t taste much avocado (although it did provide a unsettling green color); bubble tea just tastes sweet.

Overall the sushi was nice. Nothing stood out, good or bad. The nigiri sushi was a bit smaller than at Ichiban but comparable to the sushi at Maiko. The difference between Silhouette and Maiko is mostly atmosphere. Maiko is airy and light. Silhouette is dark and rich. Given that supermarket sushi is up to $9.99 for a similar quantity, it’s easy to justify going out to eat.

If I want to meet someone downtown to eat, I’d go to Silhouette again. But if I’m just in the mood for some good sushi at a great price, I’d drive up Burnet and go to Ichiban.

3 Comments so far

  1. ttrentham (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 10:41 am

    I’d heard Ichiban had fallen into disrepair. I haven’t been there in years.

    Odaku at Parmer and Mopac is a good sushi lunch destination as is Korea House on Anderson. Mikado at 183 and Burnet is a little more expensive, but not as pricey as Uchi and the sushi is good.

    I haven’t been to Umi (I-35 and Stassney) in a while, but they were pretty reasonable the last time I was there.

  2. Rantor (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 11:48 am

    I miss Mimosa. I liked those silent big-screen televisions. I liked it that the place was open on most, if not all, major holidays. And the citrus-y dressing, whatever it was, that topped that big icy green salad in the square glass bowl was strangely addictive.

  3. mss (unregistered) on August 10th, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

    I hadn’t been to Ichiban since the early 1990s because it didn’t impress me then. (Maybe it was under different management.) As chance would have it I went the day after I went to Silhouette this week. I was pleasantly surprised–from the hearty irasshaimase shouted as we entered to the side of Japanese pickles to a nice presentation of nigiri and maki sushi. The lunch special included soup and salad and was a couple of dollars cheaper than Silhouette–about the same as a bento lunch at Banzai. I’m hoping my Tuesday lunch date is up to going again next week.

    The one thing that bugged me at Ichiban was the music. It was annoyingly loud early 1970s candy pop which detracted from the atmosphere.

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