Sushi chefs Patrick Pham and Daniel Lee curate a range of omakases as well as a variety of raw, cooked and rolled items at Aiko on Washington Avenue.

Aiko, pronounced eye-ko, means "love child" in Japanese, and the Heights restaurant was named Aiko as a nod to Handies Duozo and Kokoro, two other Houston concepts from the restaurant's hospitality group Dukstache Hospitality. Aiko's menu was inspired from the two other restaurants, according to the news release.


Pham and Lee explained the meaning behind omakase, their favorite items from Aiko's menu and the top five tips for those who are considering trying omakase for the first time.
Omakase means to “leave it up to the chef.' (Courtesy Duckstache Hospitality)
Omakase means to “leave it up to the chef." (Courtesy Duckstache Hospitality)
What does omakase mean?

"Omakase means to 'leave it up to the chef,'" Pham said in an email. "For us, the head chef sets the omakase every day, but we also let the team do their own versions of their omakase after asking the guests questions about dislikes and favorites and what they usually tend to eat when it comes to fish."

"They build their own omakase by throwing in different mixes of their favorite dishes/nigiris from our core menu, along with specials that rotate out seasonally, along with our seasonal Toyosu fish market selections that change daily," he said.

Top five tips for those who are considering trying an omakase offering for the first time, according to Pham:
  • "Be open and adventurous.
  • "Our nigiri will be dressed with a yakumi topping and brushed with soy or any of our sauces that we think pair well with that fish. I would say try it, as is, first!
  • "If you have a lot of dislikes, let the chef/server/restaurant know in advance.
  • "If you have allergies or dietary restrictions, let the chef/server/restaurant know in advance.
  • "Come hungry!"
Tartar nigiri. (Courtesy Duckstache Hospitality)
Tartar nigiri. (Courtesy Duckstache Hospitality)
What are your favorite items from Aiko's current omakase offering?

"Karaage—our version of Japanese fried chicken, marinated with a soy ginger tare (sauce), with a crunchy exterior. Our favorite is to add the caviar on the side because who doesn’t love fried chicken and caviar?" Lee said in an email.

"Crudos—it's not just sashimi by itself. The way it is paired with sauces, vegetables, or fruits acts like a bright, refreshing palate cleanser or a pick-me-up after something rich like a maguro Crudo, a Duckstache Hospitality classic; and a staple with crunchy-chili garlic, pickled cucumbers, and bluefin tuna," Lee said.

"Nigiri—it's hard to say which is our favorite because each nigiri/fish is like a different chapter of a book with so many different textures, flavors and fat content. We tend to always lean towards the hikarimono fish, which are silver-skinned fish," Pham said. "They tend to be on the stronger flavored side, like mackerels, sardines and gizzard shad, just because there is an art and craft to curing and pickling them to balance out the flavors and bring out the full potential of that individual fish."