Monday, February 25, 2008

Beluga Japanese Restaurant
661 Louis Henna Blvd # 300
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 255-6454

There are a few lunch places that I tend to visit over and over again. Beluga Sushi on Louis Henna is one of them, but I hadn’t been there in a while. One reason is because none of their lunch specials are vegetarian, so I end up ordering a la carte items and that can get pricey. I usually get some combination of veggie roll, vegetable tempura, edamame, seaweed salad or age doshu (tempura tofu). I have to admit that while their veggie roll is good, it’s not spectacular and an entire plate of vegetable tempura is just too much fried friedness for one meal. Despite this and the fact that I just went to a sushi restaurant on Saturday, I decided to visit Beluga again today.

Beluga is in the HEB shopping center just west of A.W. Grimes on Louis Henna (45 tollway). It’s not much on the outside, but the inside is nicely done. It’s a swanky spot that offers stylish music, sleek decor and staff members with cool haircuts. It’s really got the cool edgy factor going for it since there’s not much competition for this approach in Round Rock.

Today I decided to sit at the bar since I was all alone and it was just a little too windy for their small make-shift patio. There usually aren’t many people at the bar but today some of the Dell crowd was there flirting with the bartender.

Blair, the bartender, brought me water and a menu. The menu looked new, so I began to scan it for previously unavailable items I could eat. Turns out Blair was a pescatarian so she understood my plight and was more than happy to help me find something really delicious. She recommended an off-menu item of Tofu steak in a Bento box. Something new- this was exciting!

I took her up on the offer and she brought me some miso soup as a starter. The miso soup was good but very typical. It contained small chunks of tofu and strips of seaweed. I slurped it down and soon my Bento box arrived.

Wow was I surprised at the amount of food: a California roll (minus the crab), a salad, vegetable tempura (broccoli, carrot, Eggplant, sweet potato, and shiitake mushroom), fresh orange slices and the elusive tofu steak topping a heap of white rice and sautéed vegetables. Then there where sauces: ginger soy for the tempura and a fantastic savory chili sauce for the tofu steak with just the right amount of spice. The tofu steak was perfectly flaky and the sautéed vegetables were a nice touch. The salad provided the perfect amount of green freshness the meal needed. The vegetable tempura was delicious except for the shitake mushrooms were tough on the ends. The roll was typical, but satisfactory.

The super friendly bartender offered me a box and I gladly took her up on the offer. She boxed up the leftovers (even the chili sauce!) and brought me my check- a mere $11.50, and although this is more than I like to spend daily on lunch, it was completely worth it for the variety and quality of food I consumed.

My faith in Beluga has been restored. Now, I wouldn't want to make a special trip up to Round Rock for it, but I’ll be happy to meet you there after work for their awesome happy hour specials- Anyone up for $2 Saketinis on Tuesdays?

Note: July 21, 2008.
Well, I returned for lunch today, and let me just say the waitstaff was a lot less accomodating this time. Apparently the super sweet bartender in the past was a super sweet fluke. My waiter refused to do any substitutions this time siting restaurant policy. For me as a non fish eater, the restaurant is far too expensive for lunch time. It's still lovely if you partake in raw fish, but not being a fish eater I will not return until they make a few additions to their menu. I have amended the bottom line.

Bottom Line: Decent Japanese food in swank decor. Not vegetarian friendly. Can get pricey if you order a la carte but they have decent priced fish happy hour and lunch specials.

Laura - 8 if you eat fish, 4 if you don't.