Week by week, the retail sprawl just oozes further in the Arlington Highlands Lifestyle Center. For reasons I may never know, one of the streets is named after a bankrupt Garland-based television manufacturer. If you follow Curtis Mathes Way a bit, you’ll pass the artificially babelicious Bone Daddy’s House of Smoke and the relentlessly family-oriented Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. Then you’ll come to the classy Piranha Killer Sushi. This sushi bar doubles as a South Arlington lounge, with a killer happy hour: weekdays from 4-7 p.m. In the “Highlands” part of Arlington, that’s worth braving the traffic on Matlock Road.
Perhaps “killer” is a relative term. Piranha offers extremely cheap drinks, like a small hot bottle of $2 house sake and $2.50 domestic beer. Mid-priced items include $4 margaritas and well drinks. However, you’re going to have to shell out six bucks for any one of the half-dozen martinis offered, even during happy hour.
Piranha uses Austrian Monopolowa vodka in most of the ‘tinis. It’s not exactly Grey Goose or Ketel One, but it’s slightly fancier than, say, the vodka in the large plastic jug from the liquor store. According to Monopolowa’s propaganda, the booze’s “rich texture and smoothness” comes from Polish potatoes. Whatever. It sure brightens up the Shogun martini. Piranha’s combo of Monopolowa, Midori, Amaretto liqueur, pineapple juice, and lime was a bit sweet at first taste. If you’re more into sour than sweet, ask the bartender to ease back on the pineapple juice. Or you could cut some of the syrupy green Midori. The Midori, though, is what gives the drink its almost alien, glowing chartreuse color.
The Wedding Cake ‘tini is a blend of Three Olives vanilla vodka, Frangelico liqueur, pineapple, and cranberry juice. Three O’s vodka is usually one of my favorites, and Frangelico tastes good with cranberry juice. But something about Piranha’s Wedding Cake didn’t taste exactly right. With the addition of the hazlenut Frangelico, it’s more like a large Wedding Cake shot than an actual martini.
I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to order the Naughty Asian martini. What with all the flap about white American teen stars making slant-eye faces in pictures, I wondered if the combo of strawberry vodka, cranberry and pineapple juices, and champagne was politically correct. Of course, Piranha’s also serves up a Rabbi martini — basically, a dirty martini with kosher pickle juice — so maybe the cutesy names are the point. Sadly, by the time I decided it would have been acceptable, happy hour had ended.
There are several things to be happy about during Piranha’s happy hour. The South Arlington location is not nearly as crowded as either of its brethren, in North Arlington and downtown Fort Worth. Because it’s a sushi joint, Piranha starts you off with steaming-warm towels to clean your hands and a teensy little noodle bowl for a nosh. Beats the heck out of a bowl of peanuts or stealing bartenders’ olives. Finally, in addition to relatively cheap booze, Piranha offers beautiful appetizers, like seared tuna and shrimp tempura, all at happy-hour prices. Of course, if you find yourself staying into the dinner hour, there’s the Love at First Bite roll. It’s not happy-hour priced but will definitely leave you happy. – Laurie Barker James