Miyako vs. Cafe Japon - A Houston Story


I am originally from Houston, and my two favorite sushi places are Miyako and Cafe Japon. These two restaurants are practically across the street from one another on Kirby, just north of Highway 59 and just south of Richmond. Both are large restaurants, dim and elegant, just shy of being hip. They can be noisy when the crowds get going and waits can be long during peak hours. But the food at both places is great. Turnover is very high, so the freshness is outstanding. I'm a traditionalist -- yellowtail, salmon, tuna sashimi are my favorites. They also have great uni and surf clam when available.

Miyako is my sentimental favorite. It's where I first started eating sushi back in college. I've been going to Miyako since it was a tiny sushi bar in Rice Village. I mean TINY - like 10 sushi bar seats and three cafe-sized round tables - that's it. But it was great -- kind of a secret that no one else knew about. However, understandably, Miyako eventually expanded into bigger digs on Kirby. Then, for a period of time, things weren't so good -- the new space got huge crowds, prices shot up, and the size of the pieces got small. The quality never waivered, but I stopped going for awhile.

A few years later, Cafe Japon opened up across the street. While I still was very sentimental about Miyako, Cafe Japon got my business frequently. Not only was the sushi great, but they had a long list of interesting and relatively inexpensive appetizers (soy grilled squid, hamachi kama) that really rounded out the meal. Miyako soon started losing ground to Cafe Japon, and soon the competition between the two brought prices down as they both tried to win over customers.

Today, I'm happy to say, both restaurants seem to do a bustling business. I go to both equally, and both are equally good. Food, ambiance, service are all great at both places, although only Miyako has tatami seating and rooms. When I am in Houston and in the mood for sushi, I and just head to Kirby, check out which parking lot seems a little less full, and go there to avoid as much of a wait as possible. No matter which place you end up, you can't lose.

by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 2004-02-22 17:11
I frequent the Miyako on Westheimer where David is the Head Sushi Chef. I've been to the Miyako on Kriby as well which I do enjoy, but I like that the one on Westheimer is a little smaller and they are willing to seat you anywhere you want. Both have very fresh fish with nice sized pieces and prices. I usually go to Mikayo every time I'm back in town visiting my parents. I've only been to the Kirby Japon once, but to tell the truth, I wasn't that impressed with it, and the one on Westheimer and Cimney Rock was even wose (it was my b-day and we had reserved the little room where you sit on pillows (i think it is called tatimi). The service was horrible for the amount of people we had and the tab we were running up. BTW, another good sushi place in Houston (rated the best in the nation by Citysearch) is Azuma on Kirby, close to University. Excellent fresh fish, but a little on the expensive side. This is a special occasion only place for us college kids :)/ If you are there, you have to try the japanese ribs from the robata bar (this is the only robata bar in Houston that I am aware of). IT is jut AWSOME.