Someday, I hope the nebulous “vegetable roll” can be eradicated from sushi menus everywhere. It’s not that I have anything against such a humble staple, usually filled with pedestrian raw crudites, but I want to imagine a world when the concept is simply redundant.
Of course, we have vegetable rolls, the server would laugh gently, They’re ALL vegetable rolls. There’s nothing that would give it away from the menu, or the taste, but every last utterance of “tuna” and “salmon” will actually be plant-based.
Places like Nori give me hope that such a vision of the future may one day come to fruition. That’s already the reality inside this sleek new establishment. New to the scene in Austin, they’ve brought truly sustainable sushi to Texas right when we need it most. Fulfilling an unmet need for elegant, high-end yet affordable dining, with vegetable-forward dishes that don’t lean on processed substitutes as a crutch, it’s the place for special occasions and everyday affairs alike. Healthy enough to feel good about while still satisfying the need for indulgence, everything on the menu is equally well balanced.
The Tatume Squash perfectly exemplifies this approach. Each bite-sized morsel is coated in an immaculately crisp tempura batter that gives way to a creamy interior, not unlike buttery mashed potatoes, punctuated by peppery chili flakes. Lemon-corn aioli cuts through the richness with a zesty citrus kick. It’s a perfect appetizer to set the mood for an innovative culinary experience.
On to the main event, sushi takes center stage as you might expect. The Volcano Roll, a fully deep-fried behemoth stuffed with sweet potato, avocado, and spinach, is the current bestseller for obvious reasons. Spicy mayo and sweet chili sauce bring the heat without drowning out the other flavors, providing a more gentle warmth than the fiery name would suggest. A touch of briny Cavi-art finishes each sizeable round with eye-catching elegance.
If breakfast sandwiches are your jam, the Manhattan Roll was made for you. JUST Egg, avocado, smoked carrot, and vegan cream cheese come together in a harmonious homage to everyone’s favorite morning meal. It’s an incredibly creative take that has no common equivalent. Though it’s a close call, this might have been my favorite maki of the night.
The Hearts of Palm Roll features one of my very favorite vegetables, paired with avocado and crisp bibb lettuce, but it’s the spicy marinated tomato fillets draped on top that steal the show. Emphasizing the natural umami in the tomatoes to approximate tuna sashimi, while still remaining true to the underlying fruit, I’d jump at the chance to have a much larger serving in a poke bowl instead.
This is only the beginning. Hot entrees include katsu curry made from either tofu or eggplant, yaki soba stir-fried with local mushrooms, and two different, distinctive takes on ramen. Saving room for dessert sounds like an impossible task, but I’ve heard downright rapturous reviews for the chocolate lava cake as a suitably grand finale.
Fish are so passé; plants are here to stay. Nori is living proof that a new day is dawning for sustainable sushi that can satisfy any appetite.