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Tachibana, Owner Hideo Yahashi's Traditional Japanese in Downtown McLean


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My sister wanted to go to Tachibana in McLean, VA for her 28th birthday last week. As much as I tried to steer her towards some of my favorite places for sushi, I eventually succumbed to her choice (it was her birthday after all) and agreed to take her and a couple of her friends there for dinner.

The restaurant sits atop a bland-looking Chinese restaurant just off Old Dominion Rd in a neighborhood of hair salons, insurance agents, and dentist offices – your typical suburban office-park hell. But as soon as I walked into the restaurant, I was reminded that I was not in just any suburban city, this was McLean. Beneath the host stand stood a dry erase board listing what’s available or fresh that day. Let’s see … $12.50 for toro, $8.75 for uni, $7.00 for mirugai (giant clam)! Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kotobuki anymore.

We decided to share a deluxe nigiri sushi dinner and deluxe sashimi dinner, a few a la carte rolls, and a couple extra appetizers. The dinners come with a choice of soup, a choice of salad, a choice of appetizer and ice-cream/sherbet for dessert. My sister detests miso soup so we opted instead for the osuimono – a clear broth soup with some leafy vegetables and a sliver of chicken meat. The soup itself was fine – a decent briny flavor, but nothing special. And I wasn’t exaggerating about the sliver of meat. The seaweed salad was pretty typical, neither bad nor excellent - but the oshitashi, a boiled spinach salad served chilled with ginger and bonita flakes, was just blah and bitter.

Of the appetizers, the tempura was pleasantly light and crisp, unlike the age-dofu (deep fried tofu in a sauce of soy, daikon radish and ginger). A humongous yellowtail jaw broiled in teriyaki sauce was by far my favorite appetizer. The four of us picked every last morsel of sweet and moist meat off the bone.

Which brings me to the sushi and the sashimi. When the platter was brought out, I could see why they charge so much. Did this look like the freshest sushi out there? No. But the pieces of fish are colossal! Cut longer and at least three times thicker than usual, the fish dwarfs the pad of rice it sits atop. This can be seen as a good thing and a bad thing. The good – you no longer think you’re getting completely ripped off since you’re getting more product for your $8. The bad - sushi is supposed to be about art and about the balance between the fish and the rice, the wasabi and the soy sauce. These giant slabs of fish certainly throw that way off. However, as sashimi they’re pretty darn tasty!

Would I go back? It's not really worth the trip across town for me - especially when I have cheaper options closer to me for the same or better quality. But for those who live around there (and who have the disposable income for it), it's worth a look - if not for its sushi, then at least for its interesting menu.

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If I recall correctly, many years ago, Tachibana was in Arlington (Cherrydale) on Old Dominion near the Military Rd/Lee Highway intersection. It was considered one of the higher quality standards for sushi in the DC area. We lived nearby and loved going, as they always served a little something extra to try - thereby introducing this PA girl to many things I would otherwise never have ordered. We followed the restaurant to its McLean location for several years, but in more recent years tended to spend our sushi dollars (in McLean) at Kotobuki before it moved to DC and now at Ichiban (my kids love the staff there and the udon).

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I went there for dinner on NYE and the quality and value of the food was as good as ever...quite simply some of the thickest slices of fresh sashimi that I have seen in a long while (and it also goes quite well with the rest of the mammoth dinner set option). Tachibana is really one of the hidden gems of high-quality, good value Japanese food in the area. If the place I went to recently experienced a "drop off" in quality, I'd be really sad that I never got to experience the original as it must have been amazing.

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Of the appetizers, the tempura was pleasantly light and crisp, unlike the age-dofu (deep fried tofu in a sauce of soy, daikon radish and ginger). A humongous yellowtail jaw broiled in teriyaki sauce was by far my favorite appetizer. The four of us picked every last morsel of sweet and moist meat off the bone.
When I lived in Arlington (la sigh...) I often went to Tachibana with my family. I didn't eat the raw back then (Hey I was young, um, -er), but I did find the tempura to be exceptionally light and crispy and this is one of the few places around here that has hamachi kama - the grilled yellowtail jaw. It's one of my favorite ways to eat fish!!!!! Part of the fun is to hunt out all the meat. If you're very good, at the end, all you have is translucent bone. If you can't see through it, you missed some meat. Delicious and entertaining!
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I am not sure why this gem is not on many people's radar. Cucas87 and I had a wonderful, romantic dinner here two weeks ago. The service and food were fantastic. We went on a Friday night and enjoyed a small wait in the bar area. The place was packed and both sushi bars were in operation. We were seated in a semi-private waiting area and where we placed a large order. The service was great and the waitress pointed out a few of her favorites. The fish was very very fresh, large pieces and probably the best I have sampled in a long time. I think Tachibana is better than Kaz, but I need to return to sushi-ko to compare the two. Each item from the tea, miso soup, seaweed salad, fried oysters, fatty tuna and sushi seemed fresher and more flavorful then its counterparts in other restaurants. Dinner with too much sushi and sake was $114 inclusive of tip.

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if you dig the autumnal pacific saury (sanma), it's on the menu for another month or so. flown in fresh, it's grilled whole, guts and all (as it should), served with lemon and grated daikon. it's beautiful.

fwiw, newt gingrich was walking out as we were coming in last night. didn't spoil my meal.

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The Sashimi Lunch Special ($14) at Tachibana has gotten a bit more expensive, but comes with more fish than before. I've gotten this (as carryout) probably twenty times over the years, and never have they loaded me down with so much fish.

Gone is the elegant little flower they made from the flounder, although they still have the cucumber vase which is now stuffed with a little mackerel as well as the usual flounder and salmon.

The tuna and salmon are cut so thick that some sushi chef must have said "to hell with it," and gotten out a meat cleaver - the salmon is a half-inch thick and the tuna is thicker than that. This is enough sashimi for two people.

Cheers,

Rocks.

P.S. There are signs up that say Saturday, November 1st., is "Sushi Day," and to thank their dine-in customers, they're offering both spicy scallop rolls and eel rolls for $3.50 apiece.

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The Sashimi Lunch Special ($14) at Tachibana has gotten a bit more expensive, but comes with more fish than before. I've gotten this (as carryout) probably twenty times over the years, and never have they loaded me down with so much fish.

Gone is the elegant little flower they made from the flounder, although they still have the cucumber vase which is now stuffed with a little mackerel as well as the usual flounder and salmon.

The tuna and salmon are cut so thick that some sushi chef must have said "to hell with it," and gotten out a meat cleaver - the salmon is a half-inch thick and the tuna is thicker than that. This is enough sashimi for two people.

Cheers,

Rocks.

P.S. There are signs up that say Saturday, November 1st., is "Sushi Day," and to thank their dine-in customers, they're offering both spicy scallop rolls and eel rolls for $3.50 apiece.

We've been going to Tachibana for 22 years. We were there last Saturday for lunch and had the sashimi lunch special also. Three of us split that, a beef negimaki and some sushi and were out of there for $67, including drinks (not including the tip). The sushi and sashimi slices are huge and we have always found them very fresh.
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We've been going to Tachibana for 22 years. We were there last Saturday for lunch and had the sashimi lunch special also. Three of us split that, a beef negimaki and some sushi and were out of there for $67, including drinks (not including the tip). The sushi and sashimi slices are huge and we have always found them very fresh.

The last meal I had at Tachibana was a joke. They brought out some sort of salmon that was pale pink in color and said it was from a different part of the fish, nothing I had seen in 25 years of eating sushi. They brought out an order of yellow tail belly and it looked like it was cut in half. I dont know what the problem was that night, but in conjunction can someone please explain to me why their spicy tuna is brown??? I will not be back to my one of my old favorites for a long long time. When I told the older manager lady, she was pretty much indifferent as well.

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The last meal I had at Tachibana was a joke. They brought out some sort of salmon that was pale pink in color and said it was from a different part of the fish, nothing I had seen in 25 years of eating sushi. They brought out an order of yellow tail belly and it looked like it was cut in half. I dont know what the problem was that night, but in conjunction can someone please explain to me why their spicy tuna is brown??? I will not be back to my one of my old favorites for a long long time. When I told the older manager lady, she was pretty much indifferent as well.

I've been going to Tachibana in it's present location for over 12 years. There are a few problems at Tachibana such as too large portions, rice sometimes not being the right blend and most definitely toro being sold when it should be classified as maguro. Still, there are problems much more symptomatic of Japanese cuisine being adapted to the American tastebuds and size portions.

However, hands down, it's had the most consistent high quality salmon in the DC metro area. Actually the last time I was there less than a month ago, I complimented the sushi chef for that very thing.

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My wife's at a friend's house for pot-luck and games. Not sure what kind of games they're playing, hopefully nothing involving my money or my honor.

So I went down the street by myself. Strangely enough, the sushi bar was reserved but there were plenty of tables. I started with some fried oysters, tempura fried eel and clam miso soup. I love anything tempura fried and the eel was fantastic - crispy, flaky, and boneless! I wanted smelt but they didn't have it. The clam miso was also good but the oysters less so (not tempura battered). Then came the sushi - fatty tuna, uni, horse mackerel, mackereal and escolar. The toro was fabulous until I got the bill, $15 for two pieces. Uni was $10 for 2 pieces. I ended up dropping $63 before tip (with only 1 12oz Sapporo to drink). Damn menus without prices!

I'm not a big sushi fan and I seem to have a short memory when it comes to Tachibana. After I tried the fried oyster, I recalled that I ordered it the last time I was there and didn't care for it. I'll probably forget how expensive it is soon.

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Went here with a group for lunch yesterday. Three of us had the Sushi Moriawase -- six pieces of sushi (shrimp, salmon, tuna, flounder, and two other whitefish that I can't recall), three of negitoro maki) (tuna and green onion roll), and three of spicy tuna roll; choice of green or bean sprout salad, and miso or clear soup. Azami had the nattou ae with hamachi; I had hiyayakko tofu, which came with bonito flakes, grated ginger, and sliced green onion.

The tofu and soups were winners. The tofu in particular had a nice mild flavor and a texture in between silken and firm. Toppings were in just the right proportion to the amount of tofu served. Azami liked the nattou part of his appetizer well enough, but was disappointed with the hamachi, which he said was not very fresh. I think the same was true with the sushi generally. We all thought the shrimp was quite good, but the others were a) disproportionately larger than the rice; :lol: not especially fresh or flavorful; and c) all seasoned with wasabi.

The prices were decent ($9.95 for the sushi, salad, and soup), and the place was full of Japanese eating (as far as I could tell) non-sushi items. If I were out in McLean, I'd probably stop in again to try some of the non-sushi items, but I wouldn't rush back for sushi.

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Had a simple but nice meal here the other night. We had done a lot of snacking during the day, so we just got some miso soup and sushi. The octopus nigri here was good, not too chewy, but with really nice flavor. The butterfish, yellowtail were really tasty. Just simple, nothing to jump and scream about but all fresh and good. I would like to dig a little more into some of the other things on the menu. I have had the jaws before which I liked, I want to try some of the rice bowls or soba. Not too far from our house and pretty consistently fresh.

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The Sashimi Lunch Special ($14) at Tachibana has gotten a bit more expensive, but comes with more fish than before. I've gotten this (as carryout) probably twenty times over the years, and never have they loaded me down with so much fish.

Ugh, knew I should have read this thread before a lunch there...sounds like the sashimi special was the way to go. I got the regular bento box and it was so-so. Tempura was fried effectively. Yakitori seemed overcooked, salmon definitely was. Tamago did not taste very fresh. Yellowtail belly nigiri was packed with fatty flavor though.

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Funny enough, I too had lunch there last week, ordered the same bento box and had a similar reaction as you. What struck me, however, was the shabby and unkempt appearance. From the entrance way littered with garbage to the carpeting, which seemed to have been installed in the Carter administration, it was an unpleasant welcome. I realize the quality of fish served is top notch but I must say I was taken aback by the environs.

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Funny enough, I too had lunch there last week, ordered the same bento box and had a similar reaction as you. What struck me, however, was the shabby and unkempt appearance. From the entrance way littered with garbage to the carpeting, which seemed to have been installed in the Carter administration, it was an unpleasant welcome. I realize the quality of fish served is top notch but I must say I was taken aback by the environs.

Three words: Spicy Scallop Rolls

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We had some of our wonderful friends come in from Michigan to stay with us for a few days. Their request was Thai or Sushi something they couldn't get much of in their town. I was thinking Thai, but then they decided they really wanted sushi and casual and fairly close by so off to Tachibana it was. We had a nice little evening with some sake and sushi. The radish shoot roll with bonito flakes was very good as was the flounder fin and butterfish. We had some other things we all really liked as well. And we got in on a Friday night without much of a wait at all which was nice for our guests who had been flying for much of the day. And they were very happy with the sushi.

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Met a friend for dinner last night and we each ordered a Deluxe sushi, which contained Tuna, Yellowtail, Fin of Flounder, Horse Mackerel, Salmon Roe, Flying Fish Roe, Clam, Eel, Scallop, Sea Urchin, Sweet Shrimp and bowl of miso soup for $29. Seems quite pricy for 11 pieces (but cheaper than ordering a la carte) but the quality was superb. The rice was fantastic. I don't normally order a sushi platter because you don't know what you're gonna get. In this case, what you'll get is spelled out on the menu.

By way of comparison, Kaz offers this: KAZ Sushi Tasting 007 (tuna, salmon, whitefish, eel, yellowtail, scallop, surf clam, salmon roe, sea urchin) $28.

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My wife and I recently enjoyed what were probably the best spicy tuna and spicy salmon rolls we've ever had. In fact, it was so good the first time that we went back the next day to get it again (this time for take out). Indeed, all the sushi we had was top quality, including the shrimp tempura roll and eel nigiri. We also had some tasty miso soup and other tempura pieces. Service was brusque at best, but it didn't come close to ruining a fantastic meal from start to finish.

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Always looking for sushi and fresh fish, I thought it worth mentioning this place - excellent staff and selections of very fresh fish/sashimi or sushi rolls.

Has been around since mid '80s in Arlington, relocated to hidden McLean location - I am always surprised by people who have never heard of this place.  If you can, sit at the bar, these chefs take their time and are creative with their presentation.  If adventurous ask them for something different, they are accommodating, and will surprise you.  Staff is gracious, interior is showing wear and dated, however not worth focusing on.  You cannot go wrong with one of their sashimi or sushi specials for lunch - to try it out.  Their rolls are creative and flavors excellent.

Parking can be a little challenging at busy lunch or dinner times - go at the early or latter part of either to avoid hassles.

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Been watching Japanese Style Originators on Netflix and it made me crave ankimo (steamed monkfish liver).  So I googled a few Japanese restaurants - Blue Ocean has it, Takumi had it but I don't know if it still does, and Tachibana has it.  Since Tachibana is only 1 mile down the street from my house, that's where I went.

The ankimo was cut into small chunks, sitting in ponzu sauce, and topped with minced daikon.  I found it a little fishy, but not too bad.

The age-tofu was similarly just okay.

Finally the tempura seafood platter came with nicely fried shrimp but the fish and scallops were quite fishy.  Watch episode 2 of the Japanese Style Originators to get a wealth of information on how to eat tempura.

I suspect we don't have any fantastic tempura joints in the area?  The only place that I know of that serves tempura piece by piece is the counter at Fish at MGM.

Tidbits from the show.  1.  Tempura may be from Portuguese fried fish.  2.  A good tempura joint will you give salt, dipping sauce, and minced daikon.  3.  Tempura should be served on wooden plates (so the food does not cool down too quickly).  4.  Great tempura joints don't play music, so you can hear the frying.  5.  Eat your prawn with salt and not dip in the sauce because the salt enhances the flavor of the prawn.  5.  Don't mix the daikon into the dipping sauce, rather put the daikon on top of the food and dip the food - so the taste of daikon can accentuate the food.  6.  Eat vegetable tempura as palate cleanser.   7.  Throwing battered items into the oil helps shake off excess batter and that makes the batter stand up/look spiky (it's a sign of skill).

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We have been patronizing Tachibana for nearly three decades, since the early nineties when it was still located in the Cherrydale neighborhood in Arlington. Our daughter is probably the greatest fan of Tachibana worldwide, as it is engraved in her childhood memory as her go-to-restaurant.

Over time we have tried most of the menu items: sushi, sashimi, ankimo, salads, tonkatsu, shabu shabu, udon, tempuras and more. During our most recent visit last week, we ordered sashimi special and sushi assortment. Uni, toro, saba and the hand rolled sushi options were the standouts, but everything else was very good too.

While perhaps not on par with the very top Japanese restaurants in Washington area (say, Sushi Taro, Sushi Gakyu, the omakase at Sushi-ko or Izakaya Seki), Tachibana remains a great, consistent Japanese restaurant with a family-friendly atmosphere, without being too loud or trading down on quality.

Needless to say, we love Tachibana. The sushi is always fresh and tasty, made to order in front of you, and the hot pots are also delicious. We rarely skip a custom-made assortment of sushi for the three or four people that typically make up our group.  One more menu item to mention is their green tea. It invariably has a calming and soothing effect on us. The red bean mochi ice cream is a must and we often close our meal with it.

One minor drawback is that Tachibana does not take reservations for fewer than six people, and if you do not go early (before 6pm on Fridays and weekends), your average wait will be around thirty minutes. It would be convenient if Tachibana at least allowed you to call ahead before you leave home.

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