Jump to content

Sushi Taro, Owner Nobu Yamazaki and Chef Masa Kitayama's Superb, Upscale, Japanese in East Dupont Circle


Recommended Posts

We did the Omakase counter last night and we will be back.  Got there early for the 7pm reservation and was able to miss the rain and grab a cocktail at the bar before being shown back to the Omakase counter.  The window behind the counter looks out over a bamboo garden.  the three of us were served by Chef/Owner Nobu Yamazaki and the other couple by chef de cuisine Masa Kitayama.

I lost track of the order and food served but a WONDERFUL experience.  I know we started with the signature Goma Tofu then had a trio of fish including Jellyfish and Barnacle which were both new for me.  Then a seasonal platter that was a wonder including a crab stuffed 'corn on the cob' and octopus steamed so long it was tender served over Tuna cheek.  There was a fried head of prawn and smoked bonito and a noodle in broth dish that was some of the best noodles I've ever had.  Then the Sashimi course where he brought out the 6 trays of fresh seafood and we got to mix our choices and his recommendations.  I had never had sushi served with salt before - wowza, and having never understood the Uni wow from people I decided to give it one more try with the imported from Japan Uni - and now I understand.

I think my favorite was the Wagyu beef wrapped around uni and served with shaved truffles - unbelievable.

then softshell crab in a squid ink temprura  and then the boxes came back out for nagiri.

Desserts were much better then I expected from sushi the Hoji-cha pudding is wonderful, and we explored some of the Japaneses scotches.

All in all a wonderful night - food was $160/person and total tab was about $225/each + tip

(Not grandma friendly as the restaurant is up a flight of stairs and dim lighting and you really want all your senses to enjoy, and besides she isn't really a sushi fan, but I try to put a Grandma comment in all my reviews)

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 178
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

Based on recommendations from this board in a Help Wanted thread, I went to the omasake counter with my girlfriend last night to celebrate her thirtieth birthday.  I've been to Sushi Capitol and had t

We did the Omakase counter last night and we will be back.  Got there early for the 7pm reservation and was able to miss the rain and grab a cocktail at the bar before being shown back to the Omakase

We picked up sushi from Taro last night and it was fantastic. The process was smooth, with curbside pickup operating with extreme efficiency. And the sushi was phenomenal. From the 'roll' portion of o

Posted Images

Ate for lunch last Friday. Got there at noon and it was moderately busy, by the time we left around 1:30 it was packed, including the bar.

Lunch is a fantastic deal for consideration of what you get. I had the tokujo sushi which for $38 gets you ten pieces of premium nigiri including toro, uni, ikura, and ama ebi. Also includes some more interesting things like kohada. Also includes a negi toro maki. While the quality of the fish was exceptional, the quality of the preparation was disappointing. The rice was different sizes on the nigiri so some pieces had a huge amount of rice while others were more to my preference with a small amount. The maki was bursting because there was too much rice, and finally, the nori had gotten soggy as well. That contrasted with my meal last week in NYC when the handroll came to the table the nori was still incredibly crisp. I certainly don't expect it to be that crisp for table service, but this had been clearly sitting around after being rolled for at least a few minutes.

The variety and quality of fish makes this worth it, but the unevenness of the sushi was a let down, especially when compared to what one can expect when eating at the counter, or even the times I have gotten the sushi tasting for dinner seated at a table.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Funny, I had a modestly disappointing weekday lunch here recently as well, after many excellent meals. Got a bento box with two a la crate nigiri orders. Had no issues with the nigiri but two of the 6 pieces of sashimi that came in the bento box were tough and stringy...just bad cuts. And the appetizer that came beforehand was I swear marinated iceberg lettuce that looked like it was left over from the previous week's salad, not the interesting pickled vegetables I've gotten before. Was a bit of a letdown...

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't been in several months -- and so perhaps what I'm about to write is also affected by a possible slackening at lunch described above -- but I've always found that their Bari chirashi at lunch is the best in town.

I love the omakase counter, but I'll only otherwise come into the restaurant for the ramen.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I love the omakase counter, but I'll only otherwise come into the restaurant for the ramen.

It seems odd that they'd have great omakase, but not great sushi or sashimi - I've had all three (they used to "weight" the omakase in terms of "raw" or "cooked"), and have never been disappointed, regardless of which omakase I've ordered here, although I think my memory is telling me to type "cooked" as my favorite, with the raw fish being strengths; just not as strong as the cooked dishes - I'd need to go back and check my written reviews for this particular issue, but I can promise everyone that whatever I wrote, I believed in wholeheartedly at the time.

Was Sushi Taro the very first restaurant in DC to go unexpectedly, unabashedly upscale? I think if not the first, it was one of the first, and they need to get some credit for putting their necks on the chopping block during a recession. Places like Fiola Mare came long afterwards (which also took guts, since they had to take on Cafe Milano).

Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems odd that they'd have great omakase, but not great sushi or sashimi - I've had all three (they used to "weight" the omakase in terms of "raw" or "cooked"), and have never been disappointed, regardless of which omakase I've ordered here, although I think my memory is telling me to type "cooked" as my favorite, with the raw fish being strengths; just not as strong as the cooked dishes - I'd need to go back and check my written reviews for this particular issue, but I can promise everyone that whatever I wrote, I believed in wholeheartedly at the time.

Don, I'm talking specifically about the omakase counter, and not the various tasting menus they offer in the main dining room.  And I'm also talking about value.  I've had middling to pretty good experiences with the regular menu, but they always felt overpriced -- proportionally -- to the omakase counter, where the quality of ingredients, attention to detail, and overall impact of the meal are that much higher.   What you get for ~$160 per person blows away any of the $125 menus in the main dining room.

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Don, I'm talking specifically about the omakase counter, and not the various tasting menus they offer in the main dining room.  And I'm also talking about value.  I've had middling to pretty good experiences with the regular menu, but they always felt overpriced -- proportionally -- to the omakase counter, where the quality of ingredients, attention to detail, and overall impact of the meal are that much higher.   What you get for ~$160 per person blows away any of the $125 menus in the main dining room.

I agree mostly. I don't think the prices are that out of scale with what you get, it's just that the counter meals are so much more of a value that it makes the dining room meals seem a poor value. Unfortunately I'm not about to bring the kids back for the omakase counter so there are times we need to eat at a table.

As for a reason for much of the different, I'm pretty sure that the sushi prepared for the tables is made by someone in the kitchen, not Chef Yamazaki or Kitayama, so the quality is not going to be as good as what you get at the chef's counter. Clearly they put some of the dishes for the dining room omakase dinners together, but they do not depart from the counter long enough to be doing the sushi, and certainly not long enough to be doing any sushi for regular orders.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Don, I'm talking specifically about the omakase counter, and not the various tasting menus they offer in the main dining room.  And I'm also talking about value.  I've had middling to pretty good experiences with the regular menu, but they always felt overpriced -- proportionally -- to the omakase counter, where the quality of ingredients, attention to detail, and overall impact of the meal are that much higher.   What you get for ~$160 per person blows away any of the $125 menus in the main dining room.

I agree mostly. I don't think the prices are that out of scale with what you get, it's just that the counter meals are so much more of a value that it makes the dining room meals seem a poor value. Unfortunately I'm not about to bring the kids back for the omakase counter so there are times we need to eat at a table.

As for a reason for much of the different, I'm pretty sure that the sushi prepared for the tables is made by someone in the kitchen, not Chef Yamazaki or Kitayama, so the quality is not going to be as good as what you get at the chef's counter. Clearly they put some of the dishes for the dining room omakase dinners together, but they do not depart from the counter long enough to be doing the sushi, and certainly not long enough to be doing any sushi for regular orders.

Thank you both for these important, candid essays. I didn't realize Sushi Taro had gotten *this* expensive.

It used to be they had three kaiseki menus, ranging from about $80-90 one was sushi-based, one was kitchen-based, and the third was more of a mix, if I'm recalling correctly.

Has anything justified the $30-40 increase in price in the main dining room?

Even at those prices, and even as the best Japanese restaurant in town (which it surely was), I was uncomfortable ranking Sushi Taro above Italic, but I can tell you that I was *sorely* tempted to raise their ranking for quite awhile, and one more visit in the "outstanding" range would have done it; I just never got around to making that visit.

Sushi Taro is one of about 3-4 restaurants that are "in danger" of being raised to Bold - are any of you flat-out saying that you think it shouldn't be? A couple other places are mere formalities, and I already know they will be, but Sushi Taro has truly been on the fence, never quite getting over the hump in my mind, but coming *damned* close.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you both for these important, candid essays. I didn't realize Sushi Taro had gotten *this* expensive.

It used to be they had three kaiseki menus, ranging from about $80-90 one was sushi-based, one was kitchen-based, and the third was more of a mix, if I'm recalling correctly.

Has anything justified the $30-40 increase in price in the main dining room?

Even at those prices, and even as the best Japanese restaurant in town (which it surely was), I was uncomfortable ranking Sushi Taro above Italic, but I can tell you that I was *sorely* tempted to raise their ranking for quite awhile, and one more visit in the "outstanding" range would have done it; I just never got around to making that visit.

Sushi Taro is one of about 3-4 restaurants that are "in danger" of being raised to Bold - are any of you flat-out saying that you think it shouldn't be? A couple other places are mere formalities, and I already know they will be, but Sushi Taro has truly been on the fence, never quite getting over the hump in my mind, but coming *damned* close.

I've not gotten the kaiseki in a while. Last time we went for dinner just ordered a la carte, though have had the sushi tasting at the table within the past year. On the website, the options are for sushi or kaiseki for $80 and turtle or surf and turf for additional upcharges. Drink pairings add around $45-$65 to the price.

I think the kaiseki is one of the best table meals one can get for that price. I remember when Makoto was something like $50 for their dinner when we first moved to DC, and that was definitely a great deal. Likewise, their sushi tasting includes a fish selection that is on par with what you can expect in Tokyo. Where it may fall flat is if the nigiri technique is not up to Japanese standards as it was in my lunch visit the other day. At a minimum, the nigiri should at least be the same size for the different pieces and the maki should not be bursting out at the seams while the rice is packed too tightly.

I think that the omakase counter is absolutely one of the greatest meals one can get in DC and I would go so far as to say it can be at the level of transcendent. It is well worth the base increase to $120 - $130 and the additional upcharge that  we always incur for additional sushi. As I noted in my review of a NYC place I went to a couple weeks ago, Sushi Taro blows them out of the water with regard to variety and quality of fish. It's not going to have the creativity of innovative garnishes on the nigiri, but Chef Kitayama (we've never seated with Chef Yamazaki) will serve authentic Japanese style sushi on par with what you will get at a quality place in Tokyo.

I would generally think Sushi Taro is worthy of the italics for the main dining room, though the inconsistency I experienced with the sushi could be an argument against it, though on the other hand, the cost of that lunch was not as high as a dinner, and lunch is more of a high volume meal. Sushi Taro now has strong competition from Ogawa for sushi, and Seki on cooked foods which are both nearby and direct competition and points of comparison. I think Ogawa is the better deal right now for sushi, though Seki is fairly close in price, but I prefer the more casual feel to Seki over the more formal setting of Taro, especially since we're dining with kids usually.

In my opinion though the omakase counter should definitely be bold. It would be similar to how you have Al Dente and Roberto's 8.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

Based on recommendations from this board in a Help Wanted thread, I went to the omasake counter with my girlfriend last night to celebrate her thirtieth birthday.  I've been to Sushi Capitol and had their omakase, which is 1/4 of the price of this and delicious, but no where near the same experience.  It was spectacular, and probably the best meal I've had in DC.  We were seated at the counter promptly at seven with two other people (relationship unclear...).  The two chefs (I assume Mr. Yamazaki and Mr. Kitayamas) were waiting and making preparations for our meal. 

That's awesome. My first meal there on my anniversary was the best meal I have ever had. Subsequent meals were just as good. Masaya is the younger chef and he is a blast. To me, this is the best dining experience in the city.

You get charged a little extra at the end if you go full-on otter during the sashimi portion of the evening. I have tried to remain somewhat reasonable because of this, but that is $30 well spent.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That's awesome. My first meal there on my anniversary was the best meal I have ever had. Subsequent meals were just as good. Masaya is the younger chef and he is a blast. To me, this is the best dining experience in the city.

You get charged a little extra at the end if you go full-on otter during the sashimi portion of the evening. I have tried to remain somewhat reasonable because of this, but that is $30 well spent.

Yes, this was a fantastic post!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just ate at the omakase counter tonight (I think our sixth time in the last five years, but the first in the spring, and seasonality is so important). Phenomenal as always. My favorite meal in DC, particularly now that Little Serow has toned down the heat and stopped changing their menu as frequently.

Simply a great experience if you're open to sushi and willing to try interesting, quality ingredients. (I still think about the tuna spinal jelly we had here three years ago; I remember exactly how it tasted.)

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Wanted to give a little promo for lunch at Sushi Taro.  I had a particularly stressful day at work and by 11:30, I was ready for a sedate lunch and figured that I could hide from staff here. I was right.  At 11:30ish few diners were in the restaurant and it's a relaxing atmosphere. 

Because I am not an expert at Japanese food, I decided to have the lunch special which, for 12.95, was generous.  Lunch started with miso soup, two mini-appetizers; potato salad and greens.  All were very good and I wished for more greens.  I had parts of salmon that I had never eaten before but because I am very familiar with crab anatomy, I knew right where to find the meat. It was perfectly well cooked, fatty enough that i could feel my memory getting better and served with a side of mild ginger.  That was served with a full bowl of perfect udon noodle soup. I could not finish the noodles but did finish the broth. Yum. I will be back, by myself; not sure i'll share with another though...so relaxing. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

The Michelin people have ruined Sushi Taro for lunch. Need reservations unless you are alone and willing to sit at the bar. But here's the catch, open table is sometimes off line and they don't answer their phone!  I"m sad and depressed. How long do you think the Michelin magic will impact this place? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Can anyone give a complete run-down of the Happy Hour experience at Sushi Taro? I've heard it's only at the counter, but am unsure about what's offered. Ive heard it can be a wait-in-line situation, which I'm loath to do, but would consider, if the whole menu is available at 50% off, which folks I've spoken to about it are remarkably unclear in their responses...would be most grateful for any 1sthand experience anecdotes. Thanks!

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's half off sushi and sashimi, I don't think you can order of the rest of the menu at the bar. Only at the bar (12 or 13 people total) and on most days, you need to be there an hour early at least. Don't assume that if they're are 7 people ahead of you that you're safe, people will save space for late arrivals in their party.

I don't think it's worth it unless you have a bottomless appetite for sushi/sashimi. They also tend to cut the fish a little thinner than the dinner service, so you are not getting full benefit of the discount.

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

They may have reduced the head count. It's been a couple years since we've gotten in the counter. We usually end up in the Little Serow line instead. We prefer Ogawa these days for sushi.

I recall it being a pretty long list, at least 15-20 kinds and encompasses most, but not all, of the main dining room options. It's definitely fewer varieties than what you'd encounter in their omakase counter.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My third restaurant week meal was my first visit ever to Sushi Taro.

While waiting for our friends to show up, I enjoyed an aged sochu made from rice. With thi we had a tiny dish of braised eel liver which was tangy, sweet with a bitter edge as a lot of seafood innards do. 

The RW menu started with eel in an eggdrop dashi. This was an amazing dish. We did the match so this course came with a nigori sake. Perfect start.

The next round was a warm dish. I had wild shrimp and vegetable tempura which suffered a tiny bit from sogginess and was clearly the least of the 4 starter choices. I got to try a tiny taste of Kay's miso cod. I would have loved a second bite but clearly Kay loves the cod more than she loves me, and after 38 years, all I got was side eye instead of cod love. I sampled our dining companions yellow tail collar which was huge, nicely glazed and very rich & oily. The angus sukiyaki was amazing too.

The mains were a selection of sushi and half a roll. My roll was salmon & avocado which was screamingly ordinary. My sushi was King Salmon {superb, fatty, firm texture, impeccable,} toro {good but not great,} sweet shrimp served without the head {very nice but not memorable} and uni {a little off condition}. Our friends ordered the optional spider roll and we ordered one too that: overly breaded and what was I thinking, frozen crab. We also took an order of engawa {flounder fin} which needed a bit more cross hatching to be properly tender but was of outstanding flavor and a screamingly good order of hiramasa.

Most of us ordered the green tea pudding for dessert, and it was the best bite of the evening: brown sugar sauce, creamy texture served warm and just jelled. Perfect. Ms Stingy had mochi which she denied her sweet, loving, wonderful husband/partner of 38 years {that would be me, for those of you who couldn't identify me from that description!} a bite. It was that good. I hear rumor that I may not have offered a bite of my green tea pudding to the person who denied me. What does she expect, fairness? 

The meal was not superb throughout but the star dishes were outrageously good. Enough so that I want to return to try the omakase experience. Our friends will join us there. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Taro is reopened for carry-out only and ... well, it's far better sushi than any other I've had during COVID.  Not cheap, of course, but not absurd (or NYC-level) prices, either.  We had both the Bara Chirashi ($24) and Jo Chirashi ($38).  The latter has better and more important cuts (a rich tuna/uni), but the Bara has considerably more food, and it's as great as it's always been (somewhere upthread above I've raved that it's one of my favorite DC lunches).  There's a lot to experiment with on the menu, too.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

We picked up sushi from Taro last night and it was fantastic. The process was smooth, with curbside pickup operating with extreme efficiency. And the sushi was phenomenal. From the 'roll' portion of our order, the plum-shiso was a highlight, as was the shrimp tempura. All of the nigiri that we tried were perfect cuts--not too big--and the rice was exceedingly high quality.

But the surprising element of our meal was the takeout drinks--we ordered beers and sakes, and the prices were very, very low, with very little to no markup. From the sake menu, the Tamagawa Time Machine was a very nice, cold sake to enjoy sitting out on our patio.

Yes, Sushi Taro is somewhat higher priced than other sushi spots, but based on our takeout last night, wholly worth it.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.




×
×
  • Create New...