hillvalley

Kotobuki, MacArthur Boulevard - Chef Hisao Abe's Value-Priced Sushi in Palisades

112 posts in this topic

This is a hidden sushi gem in a city crawling with sushi joints. You almost don't want to share it with friends because it could mean that in a restaurant that only seats around 25 you may not be able to get one.

Where else can you find the best scallop around for a dollar a piece and toro for less than $2?

One my first visit I asked if they had natto, fermented soy beans that many Japanese restaurants do not carry. On my third visit the waitress, who remembers me each time I go, mentioned that they had started carrying natto and would I like a roll?

One of the highlights that makes this restaurant so special is the house made soy sauce. This is no Kikoman you are dipping your fish in. Keep in mind though that it is only available if you eat in.

In addition to sushi they also serve eel, chicken and vegetable kamemashi, a Japanese hot pot rice dish served in an iron kettle. One a cold winter day, or cool summer evening, it is perfect. Along with the rice you are served a wonderful assortment of three side dishes, the likes of which you rarely see in a typical Japanese restaurant.

For more information check out their web page.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I know you all don't want the secret out, but shouldn't the proprietor deserve to make a decent living on his $1 scallop sushi (the best in all of Washington), $1 flounder (the best in all of Washington), ebi, eel, and his $1.75 uni, toro (some of the best in all of Washington), fatty yellowtail (some of the best in all of Washington) and his rolls ranging from $2.55 to $3.00?

How about his cold spilling-over-the-edge sake for $6?

How about why aren't there lines stretching down MacArthur Boulevard at 4:55 PM waiting for this place to open?

Don't let this gem, this charitable endeavor, fall by the wayside from lack of support, my friends. Let Honest Abe get wealthy as he deserves to do. Pump it up. C'mon and chime in.

Kotobuki is the most fairly priced sushi restaurant I've ever seen in my life. It combines the quality of a borderline-upscale sushi-bar with the prices of a dive buffet, and it's empty early in the evenings. Show up early, nod your head in gratitude upon exiting, and tip well.

Don't let this injustice go unattended. Support Kotobuki and spread the word, putting your selfish wants and needs aside while you do so.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Went for dinner on Friday night after a couple of nice glasses of rose at FF. I wanted to bring this thread to the top and I will sound like a broken record. Wonderfully fresh sushi and great prices. This place will certainly be a recurring theme in my dining out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kotobuki is a delight, and getting a seat there should be more difficult, especially on a bloomin' Friday night.

(Rocks, the sound you just heard is me pushing my selfish wants and needs aside, and blowing the wee trumpet for the joint.)

The menu is small but well-composed, striking a balance of traditional hot dishes like kamameshi and unadon, and smallish, classical sushi selection that relies on freshness and good cuts of the fish - not silly-daft nonsense of wrapping gorgonzola, Cheetos, bread crumbs and anchovies in seaweed and peddling it to the gullible as, say, a 10.95 "College Park Roll."

My highlights were the scallop and toro nigiri, which shared a fresh, fatty, pure quality that "melting in your mouth" seems too pedestrian to capture. And I applaud casting my favorite eel as a star of the menu - conveniently featured in so many dishes so I can get my fix whatever I order.

This place should be patronized and coddled so it doesn't go away. Please don't give your sushi dollars to a jackass on your block who wants to sell you another crazy concoction that offends the tastebuds and the eye. If you have a car, there really isn't any excuse in not going.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pleasant coincidence -- I went to Kotobuki for the first time Saturday night. I was surprised by how empty the place was, but hey, more for me. Had 2 maki rolls (spicy salmon and tuna/avocado), and the uni, toro, and scallop nigiris. Everything was fresh and delicious. The sea urchin was the highlight -- rich and salty, that "fresh from the ocean" taste you want from a good piece of sushi. The bill? Paltry. Even after a 25% tip I walked out only $20 poorer.

Normally I'm no fan of the Palisades, or of driving for that matter. But if Kotobuki were in Dupont, Penn Quarter, or any other more easily accessible neighborhood, the price tags would be triple and the lines would be blocks long. It might even be worth the possible hour and a half long D6 ride from the Hill... well, maybe. In any case, I'll gladly take my little Honda out of the driveway for a trip back to Kotobuki.

Don't have a car? Kotobuki is a great reason to get Zipcar. For real.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Would Kotobuki work for a $20 Tuesday?

Yes! Tomorrow?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A too small of a handful of us (me, MelGold, mdt) went to Kotobuki for $20 Tuesday and, in fact, it is a great spot for $20-ish. Between the three of us we shared a boatload of sushi and rolls that I found to be very fresh, great texture and flavor, and the temperature of everything was just right. (I hate when the fish slice is freezing cold.)

Two of the standouts for me were the lobster sushi, and an eel california roll. And if there ever was any doubt remaining about mdt and scallops, it's gone.

Service was, well, let's just say it was slow and the opposite of doting.

I'd go back for more. Even if it basically requires a car to get there.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A too small of a handful of us (me, MelGold, mdt) went to Kotobuki for $20 Tuesday and, in fact, it is a great spot for $20-ish.  Between the three of us we shared a boatload of sushi and rolls that I found to be very fresh, great texture and flavor, and the temperature of everything was just right.  (I hate when the fish slice is freezing cold.) 

Two of the standouts for me were the lobster sushi, and an eel california roll.  And if there ever was any doubt remaining about mdt and scallops, it's gone.

Service was, well, let's just say it was slow and the opposite of doting.

I'd go back for more.  Even if it basically requires a car to get there.

Can you elaborate on the lobster sushi? It sounds great and not on the online menu...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Can you elaborate on the lobster sushi?  It sounds great and not on the online menu...

It is a dollop of lobster salad (with ginger?) on top of the rice, surrounded by nori. Looks like the uni presentation. I personally found this to be one of my least favorite items.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It is a dollop of lobster salad (with ginger?) on top of the rice, surrounded by nori.  Looks like the uni presentation.  I personally found this to be one of my least favorite items.

The lobster was okay - wouldn't recommend it but probably wouldn't discourage sushi partners in the future from ordering it either. If you aren't opposed to mayonnaise in your sushi, you should be fine, but I thought it was a rather bland mixture. The large piece of nori holding it together and the chunks of wasabi floating in my soy sauce helped add flavor & dimension. The eel california roll and the scallop were the highlights of the feast for me - that and the extra salty edamame I started on while waiting for the boys to arrive! :lol:

By the way, never drove slower in my life - thought the guy behind me going down MacArthur was going to blow a gasket!

Edited by MelGold

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks to all who recommended the Eel California Roll. I'm not normally a big unagi guy, but now I'm reconsidering. That roll is the bomb!

Went Friday night and it was packed... it looks like the word about this place is getting around. Wonder if that's a good or a bad thing...

One small quibble: is it just me, or is drinking sake out of that little square box totally cumbersome? I don't mind traditional when there's a point, but it seems the retro medieval Japanese wood sake boxes are just a pain. Next time I'll just get an Ichiban.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For those who haven't gotten the eel kamameshi, get it. We went there probably a dozen times before I finally said "No, I won't eat sushi! Well, not all sushi, anyway," and got the eel kamameshi. It's good. The little sides, some of which are on the menu, some of which are not, and the stainless steel pot of eel and rice goodness.

My nephew "Eel Boy" (long story) loves sushi, but given the choice he gets less sushi and the kamameshi rather than all sushi. The only problem is finding enough space on the table for the kamameshi and additional sushi for a 19 year old :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One small quibble: is it just me, or is drinking sake out of that little square box totally cumbersome? I don't mind traditional when there's a point, but it seems the retro medieval Japanese wood sake boxes are just a pain. Next time I'll just get an Ichiban.

C'mon. You know you wanna lick the plate! :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
C'mon. You know you wanna lick the plate!

Lick, maybe not. But if they gave me a straw...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I finally made it there on Friday (what time were you there Kanishka?) after reading all of your raves - it WAS packed, but the wait for a table wasn't too long, maybe 10 - 15 minutes. What a great value- the sushi was excellent for a buck a piece, the seaweed salad was really tasty and the service was very good, especially considering the crowd and the small space they have to work in.

The one (and only) disappointment was that they don't have the house-made soy sauce anymore. Does anyone know when/why they stopped making their own? I was hoping it maybe was just a Friday crowd thing, but that didn't appear to be the case when I asked the waitress about it.

Can't wait to try the kamameshi - if I can bear to pass up the sushi...

Followed this up with a delicious stop at the bar at Restaurant Eve on Sat. nite. All in all I'd say it was a pretty good weekend as far as food goes!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stopped by last week and sampled a variety of sushi. Scallop and toro were the highlights. The best part was before tip dinner for two was just under $30.00, talk about a steal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I finally made it there on Friday (what time were you there Kanishka?)

I was there around 7:30 ish, corner table, South Asian guy facing outward with a ladyfriend.

Don: should start a DR.com "Missed Dining Connections"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We must have been there at the same time - it was around 8:00 for me, also a corner table (kind of wedged in next to a table of 6 student types), I think you may have been across the room from us (white gal w/guyfriend). Scallops were great - I accidently checked spicy scallop roll instead of spicy tuna, but was glad I made the mistake!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, it's basically right next to Makoto? What an odd contrast.

Makoto, for those who haven't been there, is much more traditional than a lot of Japanese restaurants here. It is very small, and you must remove your shoes before entering. The food is excellent, and some professionals I've spoken about it with have declared Makoto the best Japanese restaurant in D.C. It was certainly good. I'm not a fan of the saké boxes, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually it is above Makoto. You have to follow a little winding walkway and then go up a narrow flight of stairs.

It is absolutely criminal that at 7pm last night my friend and I walked in to a completely empty restaurant!!!! There was another 20 minutes before anyone else joined us.

As usual, our meal was wonderful. The white tuna wasn't quite as good as I remember, but hey, everyone has an off day. The uni and ikura, on the other hand, were some of the best I have had in a long time. My love affair with the scallop continued to blossom and grow.

We had 30 piece of sushi including 4 pieces each of toro, ikura and tobiko and 2 of uni. Our bill, including 2 beers and a 20% tip was $65. You cannot find a better deal in the city.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My Kotobuki addiction continues (thanks you to DR'ers!) - went for my (almost) weekly fix on Friday night. It was a little later (maybe 9:30) and it was pretty empty but the sushi was excellent as always. The white tuna is definitely my favorite, with the spicy tuna and avocado roll a close second. The seaweed salad is a nice way to start the meal - tasty and crunchy!

It IS the best deal in the city - we regularly eat far more than should be allowed and our bill is never more than $40 for 2 (w/beers included). Now I'm sitting here wondering when I can make my next trek up there (and I haven't even had my first cup of coffee!)

I tried the kamameshi a few visits ago. I think I'll give it another shot in the winter - it seems like it would be nice and filling on a cold evening. The eel was delicious, but it just seemed a bit dry and not all that interesting - at least with all the great sushi available at the same time.

I noticed the DCist writeup posted on the wall - Kanishka, is that your work? :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I noticed the DCist writeup posted on the wall - Kanishka, is that your work?

Yep that was me. I'm very flattered that we actually made a restaurant wall -- that's very cool. What a fantastic place -- I can't wait to get back there some time soon. The prices are practically criminal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Now I'm sitting here wondering when I can make my next trek up there
Um, that would have been last night...on the way to Constitution Hall - you know, Palisades is RIGHT on the way from Alexandria :wub:

Can you say 'sushi junkie'? I just can't get enough of that white tuna! Tried the yellowfin and avocado roll last night and it was great too.

I kind of like that every time I'm in there the same Beatles album is playing - good music to eat sushi by. (or maybe I should be starting to feel like I'm in a version of the movie "Groundhog Day")

I could have done without the annoying people at the table next to us who kept asking for sparkling water and lime...I don't mind the proximity of my fellow diners except when they're obnoxious :P

The place was packed at 6:45 with people waiting for tables - maybe the secret is spreading!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now