As a parent, I sometimes feel like families are the Untouchables of the restaurant world. Waiters sigh resignedly when they see us walk in the door with kids in tow; other diners look askance if we sit near them; the “kids’ menu” is a collection of bland foods that often has nothing to do with the type of cuisine at a given restaurant … I’m sure you could all add your own complaints to this list.
So, when I find a truly family-friendly restaurant, I want to crow about it. Origami Japanese Cuisine is a family-owned sushi restaurant in Round Rock (SW corner of I-35 and 620). When you walk in the door, there’s a small Japanese garden with a fountain, which captivated my 5-year-old (although you may have to physically restrain the toddlers from walking into the fountain). There’s booth seating, table seating and semi-traditional Japanese seating (seating on the floor, but with a dugout for your legs and backed seats).
Our waiter was charming and totally responsive. We went at lunchtime, and he explained the lunch specials to us and made some suggestions. The menu has a kids’ section called the “Little Ninja” menu and, this may be a small thing, but it is in the middle of the right-facing page of the menu. Not relegated to the back corner, or worse, a paper placemat with poorly rendered drawings. The menu offers Yakisoba, Chicken Teriyake, Chicken Karage or Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura. They come with a drink and soup.
My child ordered the Yakisoba (Japanese fried noodles), which was some of the best I’ve ever had. We got her an appetizer of edamame to have a vegetable, but her plate came with lightly steamed carrots and broccoli, plus a sectioned orange half with a cute umbrella-toothpick in it. For her drink, she chose a strawberry Ramuné, a Japanese soft-drink in an ingenious bottle that has a marble lodged near the opening, which stops against the top when you tip it up, thus keeping a child from gulping it down and also, I think, increasing the fizziness. All this made my child love the drink, but actually drink very little of it (a win:win situation, if you ask me). Our waiter assured us that the marble is impossible to get out; he and his brother apparantly tried numerous ways when they were growing up in Japan.
Besides the food and general attitude, there were a couple of details that really hammered home my good feelings about this place. When we were seated, the waiter brought us the standard disposable wooden chopsticks, but my daughter’s had been ingeniously made into “training” chopsticks by breaking the top off and attaching it to the sticks with a rubberband. They worked perfectly, and when she dropped them during the meal, the waiter immediately swooped over and brought her a replacement. He did the same with the umbrella she was enamoured with but broke as we were leaving. Love him.
The chef must have children of his own. Evidence: After seeing the adults’ sushi feast, my daughter wanted some salmon sushi, her favorite, which was fine because it meant she shared her noodles with us (yum!). I ordered it, but forgot to tell the waiter to leave off the wasabi. The chef heard it was for her and left it off on his own. It’s details like this that make parents NOT feel like pariahs.
We will be going back to Origami often. Not only is it family friendly, but the food was incredible. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. If you look up reviews on any of the foodie review sites, you’ll see that Origami consistently gets rave ones. In fact, AustinSushi.com rates them in the Top 5 Austin Sushi Restaurant, number 3 behind Mushashino and Uchi! If you’re a sushi fan, there’s no need to say more than that. If you’re not a sushi fan, there is plenty of delicious (cooked) Japanese cuisine to make you happy. Lunch specials daily and an appetizer and sushi happy hour (M-Th, 5:30-7:00) should keep you coming back. I know we’ll be back, soon.
Written by: Shannon Oelrich