Not since ice cream and pickles have two more disparate culinary offerings come together than at Q-Shi BBQ & Sushi in Spring. Sushi chef Ceu Hrang commands the raw fish you see at the counter, and the brisket, ribs, and pork butts are smoked in the back by owner, Ray Aker.
This converted Pizza Hut along the I-45 service road is a fitting spot to land for Aker, whose first job was washing dishes for the Hut. Aker developed a love for Asian cuisines traveling abroad while in the Navy, but his foundation in barbecue started earlier. “My dad sold barbecue to the textile mills in my little town,” the Georgia native says. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that he tried combining the two. A play on prime rib with horseradish became the Q-Shi 1 Roll, but with smoked brisket instead of prime rib. Chef Ceu added crab, tempura shrimp, and avocado to the mix to create the “surf-n-turf” roll. Another roll called “land & sea” pairs raw tuna and smoked pork rib meat.
As a professional barbecue lover, I should question how any self-respecting Texan could relegate barbecue to a topper on a sushi roll. But I can’t do that—I liked it. It turns out that smoked brisket pairs pretty dang well with crab. A thin slice of jalapeño and a speck of sriracha doesn’t hurt either. Even the pork rib and tuna combo had me coming back for more. There’s also a smoked brisket nigiri, but it was clumsy compared to the roll options.
A bento box of pork ribs—which came with a brisket-filled egg roll (also available as an appetizer), lightly pickled cucumbers, and corn spiced up with taco seasoning—was a clever addition to the menu. Smoked meat fried rice, which is bound together more like dirty rice than fried, rounds out the tray. While I liked the presentation as a play on the traditional combo plate, the ribs just weren’t great. They were tender, but needed more smoke and salt. Three sauces are available, and they all come on heavy just before serving. I never thought I’d write these words, but I liked the barbecue sushi rolls better.
Q-Shi has garnered considerable attention for its mash-ups, but they have a full menu of traditional sushi items and barbecue sandwiches too. Ayer said his customers routinely challenge his assumptions once they finally order. “You can’t peg anyone when they walk through the door,” he said, noting that denim-clad retirees often load up on just sushi, and so-called barbecue purists enjoy the barbecue sushi rolls more often than not.
Given my barbecue leanings, I was skeptical that combining smoked meat and raw fish would wound chip away at the credibility of barbecue. But Ayer reminded me that it was sometimes seen as downright disrespectful from the perspective of sushi purists, which made it a challenge to find the right sushi chef. “You’re telling someone who is trained traditionally by Japanese chefs to honor the cuisine and the purity of it, and you’re asking them to adulterate the crap out of it,” Ayers says. Thankfully there’s just enough right at this intersection of barbecue and sushi to not make me feel wrong about recommending it in all its adulterated glory.
Q-Shi BBQ & Sushi
1491 Spring Cypress Rd.
Spring, Texas 77373