Last week I was invited to attend a menu tasting at Lucky Robot on South Congress. I had visited a couple times before, stopping in for happy hour during South Austin shopping trips and once for brunch (which is actually really good), so I was already fairly familiar, but of course I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to try out their new offerings.
This is no Uchi style Japanese restaurant. I LOVE Uchi, but not everything can be Uchi, you know? Lucky Robot kind of reminds me of the sushi restaurant I worked at for years back in Seattle, Blue C Sushi. While Blue C was kaiten sushi and Lucky Robot is full service, they both have the same bright, cheerful feel, casual/approachable attitude, and new twists on traditional Japanese faves.
So, let’s get onto the good stuff, here are the shiny new features from Lucky Robot’s menu.
We started with some sake cocktails. There was an unfiltered white cocktail called the Lebowski that I couldn’t stomach (not Lucky Robot’s fault, mixing creamy milk-like substances with booze just isn’t my thing unless it’s a piña colada, ha) so I went with the Green Manalishi: junmai sake, lemon & lime juice, agave nectar, cucumber, cilantro, mint, and serrano. Despite all those strong flavors in one cup, it was a mild and refreshing libation.
Our first course was the Tsukiji Market Sashimi, a variety of sashimi presented in an entire fried fish. Tsukiji is a super famous attraction in Tokyo, the biggest fish market in the world. I liked the sashimi but I wouldn’t say it was my very favorite.
Next up: Seared Scallops in brown butter with house-made lemongrass soy sauce. Now these were a big favorite, of both myself and my tablemates. Here’s my problem with scallops: when you order them in a restaurant, there are just never enough. Like two scallops is going to satiate me when they’re this good? No way. If you’re wondering how many scallops I wish I could eat, I believe the phrase “giant trough” was thrown around quite liberally at this dinner.
Those heavenly scallops were followed by another winner. The Voltron Roll: krab, shrimp, avocado, pickled cucumber & carrot, topped with tuna, salmon & yellowtail, and served with sesame, spicy mayo, and soy lemongrass glaze. Whew! While I mostly think of Lucky Robot as a “rolls” type of sushi place, this was the only roll we sampled on this preview. The Voltron was definitely a mouthful, but we all enjoyed it. It utilized that same lemongrass soy that was used in the scallops… it’s SO good. I’m normally not a huge fan of the kanikama (krab stick) but it worked in this roll.
This one was also a fave: Sake Nashi. Cherrywood house-smoked salmon, asian pear, goat cheese, cherub tomatoes, lemon zest, and yucca crisps. I loved the flavor and texture combination with the soft, salty salmon, and the cool pear & goat cheese. The yucca crisps were tasty but not even completely necessary to me.
Our final dinner sample was something pretty unexpected for a sushi joint. Grilled Akaushi short ribs with wasabi mashed potatoes, seasonal veggies isn’t something I would normally order when going out for Japanese but it was really, really nice. The short ribs were super tender – no knife needed – and the mashed potatoes had just enough wasabi to lend some extra flavor without being overly horseradish-y.
Finally… one last thing. CUPCAKES! I’m not the hugest sweet tooth (if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: I’d rather save stomach room/calories for more wine and cheese, dudes) but I did like the salted caramel cupcake with the cute little popcorn on top.
Also, check out how the garnish on that next cupcake is literally half of a full-sized cookie. So funny. (That was the cinnamon roll flavored cupcake, also pretty tasty.)
One last word about Lucky Robot, NOT part of this media tasting, just my own experience… they have really good spicy edamame and brussels sprouts. If I were curating the perfect dinner, I would start with those, move on to a couple light rolls, then get scallops and the sake nashi.
Til next time… sayonara!