Houston’s vibrant Montrose neighborhood welcomes a culinary destination that promises to redefine the Japanese dining experience. Katami, meaning “gift” or “keepsake” in Japanese, is the brainchild of four-time James Beard Award-nominated chef Manabu Horiuchi, known as Chef Hori, and partner Yun Cheng, who have already won the hearts of Houstonians with their iconic Kata Robata. The 180-seat restaurant is set to deliver a remarkable journey through Japanese cuisine, showcasing the freshest ingredients, precision in preparation and a fusion of traditional and modern culinary artistry.
“I am so excited to bring my favorite elements of Japanese cuisine to Katami,” says Chef Hori. “It’s been an incredible journey creating a menu that showcases traditional techniques and preparations but also allows me to use my creativity to illustrate what I see as the future of Japanese cuisine. Japan is forever in my heart and on my mind, and Katami is my opportunity to expand on what we’ve done at Kata Robata, to share my passions as a show of gratitude to my adopted city of Houston.”
Katami is first and foremost a sushi-forward restaurant with an extensive focus on Wagyu and sake to complement. The restaurant leans heavily on fish flown in almost daily from Japan, ensuring the unparalleled freshness that sets Kata Robata, and now Katami, apart. Chef Hori’s long-standing relationships with Japanese fishmongers guarantee that 80 to 95 percent of the fish on Katami’s menu will be caught off the coast of Japan approximately 20 hours before plating. In addition to Japanese ingredients and techniques, local produce will be thoughtfully incorporated.
Diners can opt for a nine- , 12-, or 15-piece sashimi-focused Omakase experience for a curated selection of the best fish and cuts that the chefs select each day. Those wishing to choose their own adventure can start with one of three variations on Miso Soup, including “Tonjiru” Pork Belly and Vegetable MIso Soup (with pork belly, gobo, carrot and shiitake) and Asari & Kane Miso Soup (with clams, fresh crab meat and green onion); Texas Wagyu Beef Salad, a play on a classic duck salad made with 18-hour sous vide and grilled Texas Wagyu beef, arugula, cabbage, sliced apple, pickled shimeji mushrooms, crunchy onion and togarashi; a light and shareable Corn Mushroom Okonomiyaki based on the traditional Japanese street food with mixed mushroom, cabbage, egg, okonomiyaki sauce, aonori, mayo, carrot flakes and crunchy onion; Caviar Service with crispy salmon skin chips, cauliflower mousse and chives; and Medai Carpaccio with sashimi-grade Japanese sea bream, dash vinaigrette, crunchy togarashi, black sesame soy sauce and seaweed.
Signature rolls include The Southern Smoke Roll, a fan-favorite at many Southern Smoke events, with fatty tuna belly, caviar, shiso, wasabi, sea urchin and soy sauce; The Katami Futomaki Roll with tamago, fried shrimp, tuna, anago, shiso, takuan, yamagobo, ikura and kanpyo; and The Harlow District Roll, a vegetarian roll that pays homage to the micro-community where Katami sits, with sautéed onion, mushroom, takuan, kanpyo, red bell pepper, avocado and tomato powder.
The Wagyu selection includes the options of by-the-ounce Miyazaki or Hokkaido Wagyu served Robata style, grilled over Binchotan charcoal, or Tamaki style, lightly seared and thinly sliced. Diners can also order prepared dishes using Kagoshima Wagyu, including Shabu Shabu style that is prepared tableside with sesame sauce, ponzu and paper hot pot; Carpaccio style, sliced paper thin served with yuzu olive oil sauce with the option to be topped with Japanese uni; or Ishiyaki Yakiniku-style, marinated in yakiniku sauce with hot pot.
Other creative yet nostalgic dishes include Foie Gras PBJ Milk Bread (with Nutella, maraschino cherry and blueberry) and Robata Baby Back Ribs (with sweet soy marinade, spicy garlic chili oil and creamed corn).
Those who have visited Kata Robata in the past few months have likely been delighted by Chef Hori’s testing of Kakigori, a Japanese-style shaved ice with ice imported from Kanazawa, Japan, with flavors that include Green Tea with Azuki ice cream, white chocolate cream, caramel and condensed milk; Rainbow with strawberry, mango and blueberry, served with with strawberry ice cream, condensed milk and yuzu cream; and Strawberry Nutella with chocolate ice cream and mascarpone cream.
Katami’s extensive sake program promises to offer a unique and rare selection of by-the-bottle and by-the-glass options not commonly found on local restaurant menus. Favorites include:
- Koyama Honke Shuzo ‘Mountain Warrior Doburoku’ Saitama
A nod to old traditions and ancient ways, Dobouroku is one of the oldest ways to produce sake, resulting in a fully unfiltered similar to Nigori but with a distinct body, style and flavor. Few producers are allowed to make this style of sake, marking its presence outside of Japan extremely rare.
- Watanabe Hourai ‘Lady Killer’ Gifu
Lady Killer illustrates how Japan’s culture is ever changing, intermingling influences from the outside world and its hold on values and traditions. Inspired by Picasso, this bottle embodies the nightlife of Japan from its izakayas to its host clubs meant to entertain clients and friends. It is fruity, playful, elegant and balanced with a silky smooth finish. This sake is inspired by male host clubs, with the club hosts wanting a high-end sake to serve to female clients.
- Tatsuriki Honda Shoten ‘Nihon no Sakura Gold’ Hyogo
This sake encompasses many of the values of Japanese culture — elegance, precision, and mindfulness. As the handcrafted gold sakura leaves float down the bottle, one is reminded of springtime in Japan, symbolizing purity, hope, beauty and innocence that goes along with cherry blossom season. Created with the best of Yamadanishiki rice and painstakingly hand-polished for two full nights and two full days, this sake is made with total dedication to the craft and Japan’s obsession with being the best.
The spacious 20-seat bar at Katami provides a stylish setting for patrons to enjoy a range of thoughtfully crafted cocktails that reflect the Japanese roots and delicate balance of Chef Hori’s cuisine. Options include plays on classic interpretations, like the Katami Old Fashioned (with Tiki Japanese Whisky, toasted rice, angostura and yuzu bitters) and the Umami Manhattan (with rye, Japanese sweet vermouth, kombu, mushroom and bitters). Modern interpretations include Shiso Side (with Roku Japanese Gin, lemon, yuzu sherbet, shish and hot sesame oil) and Ume Clarified Milk Punch (with milk-washed Japanese Whiskey, umeshu, Cocchi Americano and lemon).
Architects Abel Design Group steered away from stereotypical Japanese iconography, opting for a simplified and sophisticated setting allowing Chef Hori’s creations to take center stage. Inspired by the concept of “keepsake,” the design infuses tranquility, balance and feng shui principles, with a nature-inspired color palette, abundant natural light and a sense of unbridled brightness in the dining areas. In contrast, the bar and lounge area boast darker tones, creating a sophisticated, moody ambiance. At the heart of it all, the 12-seat sushi bar emerges as the focal point, connecting the luminous dining area with the tempting depths of the bar, ensuring an unforgettable dining experience that engages all the senses. A 40-seat patio allows diners enjoy clear Houston nights under the stars.
New York City’s Dül Studios added finishing touches to the design, focusing on bringing movement and an unexpected element to the decor elements of Katami, using pieces and materials that felt grounded in nature. From a delicate botanical presence inspired by the Japanese art of ikebana and the landscape of Japan to the subtle references to the sushi-forward menu, all the pieces are curated to create an elevated dining experience.
“For the artwork and decor, we chose pieces that complemented the beautiful interiors done by the Abel Design Group,” explains Grace Kim of Dül Studios. “We chose to work with emerging and established Japanese American artists, such as Aoi Yamaguchi, a master Japanese calligrapher who merges the traditions of Japanese calligraphy with contemporary expression. We commissioned ceramic vases from Michiko Shimada. Through these thoughtfully chosen pieces, we reflect the modern interpretations of Japanese craft and tradition, inspired by the cuisine and ethos of Katami.”
Katami is located at 2701 W. Dallas St., Houston, TX 77019.
It has 182 indoor seats and 40 seats on the patio.
To start, the restaurant will be open from 5pm to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 5 to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday