June 27, 2022



Blue Sushi Sake Grill brings more vegan sushi to Houston

3 min read

In recent years, Houston has had quite the uptick in sushi bar openings, but few appeal to vegan diners the way Blue Sushi Sake Grill, now open at M-K-T Heights, does.

The popular concept from the Nebraska-based Flagship Restaurant Group touts a total of 30 restaurants across 11 states, with Houston’s M-K-T outpost serving as its 19th Blue Sushi location.

Uni at Blue Sushi.

Uni at Blue Sushi.

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

Blue Sushi places a hefty spotlight on responsibly sourced seafood and has one of the largest plant-based menus in the country. For Flagship co-owners Tony Gentile and Anthony Hitchcock—Houston natives who began their friendship more than 20 years ago while at the University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management—it was an ideology that was important from the start.

“Sustainability was something we always had a passion for,” Gentile said, noting he and his corporate chef locked themselves in a room and discussed supply chain challenges until they could make it work. “We were doing the scientific groundwork for at least three years in order to get the concept off the ground.”

Blue Sushi hits its 20-year milestone anniversary in 2022. Gentile attributes the brand’s success in part to the relationships he and his partners have made along the way.

Find cocktails and mocktails on the menu at Blue Sushi.

Find cocktails and mocktails on the menu at Blue Sushi.

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

“Responsible sourcing is all about putting pressure on people to do the right thing,” said Gentile. “We have partnered with folks around the country who share the same ideals.”

Sourcing from purveyors like Caviart for a caviar alternative and Kuleana for mock tuna has resulted in Blue’s substantial vegan menu, which Gentile says is highly sought after. “Whatever ‘popular’ is, it’s 20 times that,” he said.

The vegan sushi menu boasts a whopping 18 rolls and seven different types of vegan nigiris. A VLT roll mimics the flavors of a BLT, incorporating smoked tomato paper, avocado, cherry tomatoes, shallots and vegan mayo. The vegan unagi maki is built with barbecued eggplant in lieu of eel, and a Thai Hippie roll is a standout on the list, made with tofu tempura and vegetables, then topped with Thai peanut sauce.

Blue uses the exact same techniques making vegan varieties as its non-vegan sushi—they simply use plant-based ingredients. They use different utensils, though, as they do for people with allergies.

Blue Sushi's signature tuna tower made with plant-based tuna.

Blue Sushi’s signature tuna tower made with plant-based tuna.

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

Of the many options, Gentile explains there is something for everyone: “The way we categorize our vegan rolls is: Some people don’t want to eat anything that mimics meat or seafood, some do, and then there are flexitarians.” Gentile is a self-proclaimed flexitarian himself, maintaining a mostly vegetarian diet, with the addition of seafood from time to time, and says that his partner Hitchcock has never eaten beef or pork in his life.

For those who do prefer the mellow taste of real fish, the avo-kaluna is a vegan must-try. “Plant-based tuna is hard to nail,” Gentile admitted. “If I can’t make it as good as someone can make it, I try to go out and source it.”

His preferred source? Kuleana, a fish substitute by a plant-based food tech start-up that touts a firm, buttery texture similar to the real thing, and packs plenty of umami flavor. “You get the taste of fish right off the bat, but without it being too fishy,” said Gentile.

The Everything Smoked Salmon is packed with everything bagel-inspired flavor.

The Everything Smoked Salmon is packed with everything bagel-inspired flavor.

Blue Sushi Sake Grill

Diners are known to indulge in Blue’s vegan offerings despite not actually being vegan—Gentile says they simply enjoy the way they taste. The rest of the menu is equally as impressive. Creative dishes include coconut crab soup with roasted corn and sweet potatoes, Blue’s signature tuna tower, and specialty nigiri pieces like the Everything Smoked Salmon, featuring smoked salmon over cream cheese-stuffed rice tempura, dressed with “everything” furikake.

From oyster bars to craft beer and burger joints, Flagship Restaurant Group is well-represented across the nation, but Blue remains its marquee restaurant, and according to Gentile, “the Houston location is the best one yet.”

Find it: 600 N Shepherd Dr Suite 500, Houston, TX 77007; (346) 816-2583

Hours: Sunday, noon-9 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

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