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Makoto, Chef Yoshiaki Itoh's Traditional Japanese Omakase and Sushi on MacArthur Blvd. in Palisades - Closed Dec 29, 2018

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Chef Itoh died on September 3rd.

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This is extremely sad to me. :(

Makoto was the first great Japanese restaurant I ever visited. People don't remember, but Le Lion D'Or and Jean-Louis ruled the roost in the early and mid 1980s; then Obelisk (1987), Red Sage (1991), and Makoto (1992) opened, and things got a lot more diverse and interesting. Makoto was, and always has been, wonderful value for the money, but twenty years ago it was a groundbreaking dining destination in Washington, DC. I remember the first time I ever had a stuffed persimmon there, and thinking to myself, "Gosh this is a cool dish" - I had never seen such a thing.

Rest in peace, Chef Itoh - I will always love your restaurant.

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Chef Itoh died on September 3rd.

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We are very sorry to learn of Chef Itoh's passing.  Makoto is a gem.  On our last visit, the Chef had turned the reins over to one of his sons, but his training had clearly been excellent and the food was as good as ever.  I'm so happy we took Naomi (age 13) there this winter in a long-delayed celebration of her mastery of chopsticks.  

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If I had the skills I would compose a poem in Chef Itoh's honor. Makoto is not just a restaurant, it is a window into Japan and its culinary culture. Despite its small space, Makoto was a broad and open-armed refuge after my first visit to Japan taught me the beauties of its cuisine. I will tell my grandchildren about Makoto, but I intend to enjoy it many times before then. My sympathies to Chef Itoh's family.

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This is so sad to hear. We used to go to Makoto very regularly until the birth of our daughter 4 1/2 yrs ago, and actually hadn't been back since then. Food and service were always impeccable.  :(

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My wife and I are saddened to hear of Chef Itoh's passing.  We've eaten at Makoto over a dozen times, reserving dining there for special occasions, over what I believe to be the last 20 years.  We ate there as recently as this past July and thought that the quality of our experience never diminished in all those years.  We always chose the chef's multi-course menu in order to sample the widest variety of their offerings.  We initially sat at a table but quickly learned that the place to sit was at the bar so that could enjoy the show, watching the chefs prepare the dishes.  All of the chefs behind the bar were always quick to comment when my wife and I would discuss a dish's preparation and identify an ingredient for us that we were at a loss to identify.

Our thoughts go out to the chef's family in this difficult time and will miss the artistry, flavors and passion that he brought to DC dining.

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Dinner at Makoto last night was a very interesting experience for a number of reasons and the experience stands out in my mind as much as the food.  Overall I felt like we were invited into a lady's house and she was going to serve us dinner but yet we were reminded that we were at a restaurant because when we arrived, a mere 10 minutes before the reservation time, the door was locked and when we called hoping to escape the December chill, we were informed that "the chef is not ready yet." 

Makoto provides an 8 course pre fixe with a couple of upcharge options. One is expanded sushi during that course; I didn't catch the other.  The menu is not online, I didn't snap a picture and it changes daily. I do not know Japanese food and therefore I will do a very poor job of explaining the menu but hope I capture enough to make you want to dine there (order is approximate).  

1:  Selection of 4 items in order we were instructed to eat them: tender, juicy, flavorful, slightly spicy beef tenderloin, 2 types of mushrooms in a delicious sauce ("pick up, bring to your mouth", we were encouraged), a single turnip (baby) in a bland sauce, and 4 blackberries with some mild cream sauce.

2 & 3. One of them contained some type of fatty seared fish with a mild miso sauce and that was amazing and I want more.  The other items were good as well. One was fried duck liver served over a rice cake with a seaweed base.  Another was a choice of sea bass or cod. I had sea bass and it was perfectly well cooked but my companion's cod was a bit blackened.

4.  Sushi.  Great especially since a very special leaf was served with which made the experience elevated.  My flounder flower was fatty. 

5.  Seafood soup:  Two waitresses made it at our table and we were told "let me cook this for you".   At first I didn't really like it but by the end it was amazing. I enjoyed how the soup changed over the 3 serving.  (our hostess kept spooning it into our bowls and I had a little cough so she gave me extra broth with encouragement to eat it all). 

6.  Deep fried monkfish in a nice broth. Compared to the rest, unexciting from enjoyable all the same.

7.  Sashimi:  also amazing.  We were instructed to eat the first without soy sauce because it was already marinated and also informed of the order in which to consume the other 3 pieces. 

8.  Fruit tart with a side of Grand Mariner sherbet.  Sherbet was the perfect ending to this meal. I was full, but not overly.

Notes on service:

I had a little cough and so the waitress (noun doesn't suit) brought warm water for me and kept it warm and filled at my side all night.  Our table ordered 3 sakes and she explained them all to us, choose her favorite and brought that one when we wanted more. We also received tasting cups.

I am allergic to nuts and milk, cream, cheese ect and Makoto doesn't alter the menu for allergies. My allergies were outlined when the reservations were made two weeks in advance and maybe that is why this night there were no nuts on the menu. Although two items contained cream, I was simply informed "that contains cream (or cheese), you might not want to eat it."  

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4.  Sushi.  Great especially since a very special leaf was served with which made the experience elevated.  My flounder flower was fatty. 

Was this leaf fairly large, served with (perhaps) lean tuna, and looked like this?

37.jpg

That would be shiso which has the flavor of something like tarragon, taking some getting acclimated to.

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4.  Sushi.  Great especially since a very special leaf was served with which made the experience elevated.  My flounder flower was fatty. 

Nola, I'm glad we got the leaf unraveled. Now, on to the next thorny issue:

What do you mean when you say, "My flounder flower was fatty?"

I woke up very early, after a rough night of "sleep," or lack thereof, and haven't had any caffeine (yet; that will soon change), and that may be why this clause isn't clicking. Sorry, I would've asked before, but my thoughts were rooted in the leaf - now, I can branch out.

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Not sure how flounder/fluke gets "fatty," though.

RW: Yes, that picture was of a flounder flower like the one I had. It's been quite awhile but maybe what I describe as "fatty" is ...creamy? or smooth? I am not very sushi sophisticated.  I must admit though that I liked using "flounder flower" in my post.    One rarely gets to use that phrase.

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Went here many times for special occasions, the memories I have will last forever.  Sad to see this quaint space go away.

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