If you’ve been in Austin for a little while, there’s a decent chance you’ve heard stories about how a lot of sushi chefs in town got their start at Musashino, an Edomae-style sushi restaurant located on the second floor of an office building a few blocks away from UT. And it’s true—some of its alumni have gone on to start great places like Uchi, Fukumoto, and other spots around town. Musashino has been a cornerstone of Japanese dining in Austin since the early ‘90s in some location or another, and in that time they’ve built up a dedicated following for their classic no-frills approach to sushi prepared in an open kitchen, where you can watch the chefs break down a whole fish right in front of you.
Despite the office mall situation, it’s very cozy inside. Take a quick look around and you’ll see dark wooden doors with kanji characters written in paint, and a hanging light fixture made from a ballooned-up puffer fish. Once your eyes adjust to the dimly lit interior, you’ll forget that you’re eating sushi between a law firm and a dental office. Well, unless you grab a table on the small patio out front, where you’ll be able to look out over the parking lot from your second-story vantage point.
The nigiri is about as classic as it gets. The rice might be packed a little denser than we like, but it’s seasoned very well and makes for a welcome accompaniment to the massive slices of high quality fish spilling over both ends. And they’re huge. While you might be able to get these pieces down in one bite, you’ll probably end up doing one of those awkward gestures at your mouth when your waiter comes by to ask how everything is. Then you’ll quickly finish chewing and take an exasperated sigh before blurting out “excellent” before rushing back to do it all again. They’re priced reasonably for the quality, and there’s a pretty extensive list of fish to choose from—if you’re not much of a fish expert, just order an omakase, or one of the “sushi entrees” that come in varying sizes and let the chefs make the hard choices.
While sushi trends come and go, Musashino is a place that feels like it hasn’t changed or batted an eye at all the newcomers in decades. It’s classic and reliable, and it’s a place we hope never changes.
This is one of our favorite ways to start a meal here. The batter is light, delicate, and crispy, and there’s a wide enough spread of vegetables to keep each bite interesting. Grab one of these for the table to kick things off.
There are a lot of different sushi entrees on the menu, but we usually go with the deluxe—it strikes a nice price-to-quality balance, and it’s basically a miniature omakase experience with a daily chef’s choice of seven pieces. It also comes with miso soup and a pretty forgettable salad, but you’re not really here for lettuce anyway.