Within close quarters of local taquerias, Mexican markets and Vietnamese noodles, Joyce Yang and Madhu Phillips operate their Japanese eatery, Sugar Pine.

They opened the Japanese restaurant with a simple, familial theme to showcase unique cuisine that Yang calls comfort food. To go along, the restaurant offers an inviting atmosphere open to families, she said.

“It’s how we are,” Yang said. “That’s what we tend to gravitate toward.”

Sugar Pine offers counter service for the to-go patrons from the surrounding neighborhoods, like Wooten and Quail Creek, but also offers eclectic nooks at the restaurant for customers to stick around and enjoy their food undisturbed.

An outdoor patio offers an aside away from the hardscrabble streets connecting to I-35. And a larger dining room is offered for groups.

What ties it together is the food, Phillips said. Notable is the onigiri. Fully presented with flair on dishes, it also is offered in traditional triangular-shaped packages for on-the-go eating. Onigiri in Japan is offered at markets much in the same way as sandwiches are sold at convenience stores here in the U.S.

“The onigiri is something you can pick up and eat while you are walking to the subway or walking down the street,” Phillips said while recalling trips to Japan that he and Yang have made. The two married 17 years ago.

Also on the menu are set dishes prepared bento-style to show the variety of Japanese food.

The Katsu Pork comes with a side of rice, pickled vegetables, miso soup, salad and a homemade almond cookie. For desert, there is ice cream and sorbet in flavors like taro root and black sesame.

Experienced restaurateurs, both Philips and Yang have worked hard at their welcoming approach to Sugar Pine.

As evidenced, they designed and furnished the larger dining room for groups of friends and family to spread out. The setting is well-considered and the product of several iterations of color. Phillips explained that his background as an architect made him suited for designing the physical spaces of the restaurant, but Yang conceptualized the look and feel of Sugar Pine.

"We wanted to showcase Japan,” Yang said.

Sugar Pine

8578 Research Blvd., Austin

512-520-9046 | www.sugarpineatx.com

Hours: Tue.-Sun. noon-9 p.m.; closed Mon.