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

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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)

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That "corn on the cob" is amazing. Another one that they did once was a "watermelon" made of fish roe. They also keep notes on guests so it is different every time you go. We've only been twice for the counter.

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The others in my party had the "watermelon" but I had something else since that was very spicy - they did a great job of adjusting for me as I'm a spice wimp.  Excited that they keep records as another friend wants to go with us now. 

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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.

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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...

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very interesting that it's not in Washingtonian's top 100...but Sushi Capitol is. I assume Ogawa will be next year, as well.

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.)

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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. 

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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? 

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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!

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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.

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37 minutes ago, astrid said:

It's half off sushi and sashimi...

Any sushi or sashimi on their menu or is it limited to certain common items?

ETA: website says only 11 seats, half price on "regular sushi."

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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.

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