PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston November 2023

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Flight Taking The New Norigami W hat do you get when you cross the crisp, dried edible seaweed called nori with the paper-folding art of origami? The new eatery Norigami. The popular pop-up, which launched in 2021, has finally found a permanent home in West University. The cozy 24-seat space is brought to us by Tuan and Thy Tran, owners of The Hidden Group, who also own two other "hidden" sushi concepts in Houston. Their first, the 18-seat Hidden Omakase, serves a rather elaborate omakase experience with just two nightly seatings; you'll find it behind a faux retail façade that appears to be a comic- book store ($175 per person). Their second concept, also concealed from prying eyes, is Sushi by Hidden in Rice Village, a 12-bite omakase timed to take just 30 minutes from start to finish ($60 per person). Norigami has a concealed component as well — in this case, a dimly lit speakeasy called Hidden Bar, situated on the other side of a fluted-wood paneled wall in the main dining room. Bartender Hao Ma (Bludorn, Wooster's) mixes up drinks such as the signature Paper Crane, a blend of bourbon, rum, Aperol, and pineapple and coconut juices served in a crane-shaped cocktail glass ($16); a spicy Thai chili and ginger-laced margarita ($15); and my own favorite, Side the Sun Rises, a butterfly pea gin drink, made with yuzu, with a glowing violet hue. Nurse your cocktail, beer, wine, or champagne in the By Laurann Claridge Cranes neon-lit bar, where dozens of multicolor paper cranes fly overhead and a faux grove of blossoms tops the banquette that runs the length of the space. Order one of six light bites available in the bar, or head next door to settle onto a stool and watch sushi chef Jimmy Kieu (Sushi by Hidden, RA Sushi, KA Sushi, The Blind Goat, The Fish) and his team at work. In the main dining room, a large oval sushi bar takes center stage. The contemporary space is enclosed with gray cement walls where a neon-lit art piece depicts, step-by-step, how to fold an origami paper crane. (Cranes are a mystical animal in Japanese lore; legend has it that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, healing, love, and your heartfelt wishes will come true.) Designed by Handsome Studios, the interiors evoke the essence of a Tokyo night crawl through that bustling city. Start with a crudo, either salmon or hamachi ($13 each). Our favorite light bite is Steak & Eggs — Norigami's version of steak tartar, combining minced raw wagyu beef with diced pickled red onions and Dijon mustard, with a diminutive quail egg broken open and perched atop, plus a dollop of caviar adorned with edible gold leaf ($23). Spread the delectable concoction on toast points, and you can't do better. Next, prepare to eat your way through 11 varieties of handrolls. The tightly edited menu offers à la carte options or three pre- selects: 3some ($22), 4some ($31), and the Norigasm with five rolls ($41). The sushi chef pulls warmed nori wrappings from the stainless-steel box in front of his station and prepares each handroll to order, advising you to eat it quickly so the nori stays crisp. Each handroll is about three to four inches long. Selections include spicy scallops dressed with cucumber, chili garlic aioli, yuzu tobiko, and avocado ($10); a toro handroll with crisp fried leeks and jicama ($10); and bluefin tuna with microgreens, shiso herb, and jicama ($6). Francophiles will love the foie gras handroll assembled with sour cherries and drops of balsamic ($15), while the ménage foie gras is a rich combination of uni, toro, wagyu, foie gras, and caviar cradled in that nori wrap and decorated with bits of gold leaf ($26). Norigami, 2715 Bissonnet St., Laurann Claridge Crudos at Norigami Paper Crane cocktail JENN DUNCAN MICHAEL ANTHONY

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