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Sakana Sushi, Vienna VA - Closed


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Have you had sushi in downtown Tokyo? ...me neither. Have you been to a dozen sushi restaurants in the DC Metro area looking for the best around...me too. Sakana Sushi in Vienna, VA (not to be confused with the Sakana Japanese Cafe in DC) serves the same quality of fish that they do in downtown Tokyo ...that is, the downtown Tokyo in HEAVEN! I jest (without intending any offense to the religious-minded fresh fish fiends reading this) but I'm serious - I've been to nearly every popular, Washingtonian-recommended, sushi spot in DC and haven't found a single one that can hold a flame to Sakana Sushi. The fish is incredibly fresh, the proportions extremely generous and the rolls as unique as they are delicious.

Nestled in the middle of a row of retail shops and restaurants just off of Maple Ave sits this quaint, unassuming piece of paradise where you feel at home the moment you step in the door (parking is in the rear). The family that owns and operates (hostess to sushi chef and everything in between) Sakana are some of the nicest, accommodating and hardworking people you will ever meet.

You'll be greeted in traditional Japanese fashion when you arrive with your choice of tables in multiples of two or a roomy, L-shaped sushi bar. A seat at the pristine, refrigerated case-lined bar will grant you an immediate bow and friendly introduction from Ken or Simon. This is the part where you come to the realization that there is only a quarter inch of glass between you and some of the finest filets of fresh fish you have ever seen and will ever taste.

Proper menus are provided along with an a la carte sushi sheet. One look at both of these and it's patently obvious that you're not at the run of the mill sushi restaurant. You'll notice several rolls that you've never heard of before and with descriptions that leave the mind (and stomach!) anxious. Now, pick your druthers and let the show (and the suspense) begin. These chefs' work is borderline art ...but the kind of art that you can't wait to pick up your wooden finger-extensions and dive, mouth-wide-open into.

On a typical night you'll hear soft reggae or traditional Asian tunes playing over the sound system, providing a positive, relaxed atmosphere - perfect for a date night with your man/lady-friend or group dinner spot before going out elsewhere.

With the quality of fish, service and artistry concentrated at Sakana you always walk out (or in my case waddle out, due to my tendency to consistently exceed the Salmon intake for any single human being in one sitting... every sitting) feeling like you got a WAY better deal than you expected.

My recommendation (aside from asking Ken to keep serving you random items of his choice until you fall out of your chair) include:

Sashimi Deluxe

Bubba roll (off menu)

Spicy Tuna cream puff

Barber Pole Roll

1/2 carafe of the House White wine

Great value and exceptional quality aren't commonly two phrases you hear in conjunction with each other in the world of sushi restaurants, but Sakana Sushi has achieved the perfect storm here. You will not be disappointed ..that is, until you get to downtown Tokyo (in Japan or in HEAVEN) and realize that Vienna, VA had better sushi. Enjoy!!

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Thanks, Dan -- I'm looking forward to trying it.

Have to admit, however, these descriptions frighten me:

"the proportions extremely generous" (such as in American-style huge pieces of nigiri? yech)

"Bubba roll"

"Spicy Tuna cream puff"

"Barber Pole Roll"

What are the prices like? In the Sushi-Ko/Sushi Taro range, or more like Kotobuki?

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Hi Marty,

Fear was not my goal so I'll probably go back and do a revision. :lol:

By generous proportions I was intending to convey the distinction between Sakana and several places I have visited, ordered a sushi or sashimi plate and questioned what I just paid $12.50 for when the bill came. The nigiri is very balanced, so I wouldn't worry about monster pieces of fish hanging off of your rice.

Some of the other roll titles that frightened you illustrate the creativity that the chef's put into their work. Depending on your interests, you can get very traditional sushi or, if you're feeling adventurous, some newer, innovative tastes.

The prices are very reasonable (probably somewhere in between Sushi Taro and Koto. My wife and I got out for around $42 w/tip, including 2 x miso, 1 x seaweed, sashimi deluxe plate, a few pieces of nigiri (a la carte) and 2 scoops of red bean ice cream.

All of this is making me hungry... :lol:

Well, best of luck and let me know what you think after you make it out there.

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Funny this place comes up today. I "worked" from home yesterday and stopped by Sakana after running an errand since Foster's was chock o' block crazy. I've been to Sakana once before, and numerous times when the space was called Kansai and Kobuki. This was an excellent choice.

I came in, was seated at the bar (there were 4 of us total, which was not uncommon for lunch I was told - dinner gets crazy) and ordered an iced tea. I was offered miso soup, but declined since it was so hot outside. I was given a nice salad which was tossed with a peanut based dressing, which tasted a bit like satay. I'm not a huge satay or peanut fan, so this wasn't my favorite, but I could see it as a nice departure from the usual orange ginger dressing.

I ordered two rolls - soft shell crab and "crazy tuna jalapeno." Both were excellent. The crab was a fresh softy, not frozen and sang with sweetness and flavor without being oily from deep frying. Pairing the crunchiness of the asparagus with the silkiness of the tuna in the crazy roll rocked. I also ordered a white tuna nigiri which smelled and tasted like the sea - very clean and fresh. While I was finishing up, Ken gave me a gratis chopped white tuna salad nigiri which was very, very, very, good.

Nice lunch which only set me back a surprising $22 before tip. Well worth the visit and a great addition two miles from the house.

They are also very kid friendly (but since it's a small space, I'd humbly suggest only those kids who can stay at the table during the meal should go), as on my one other previous visit, Ken stuck an octopus tentacle to the inside of the sushi window much to the amusement of my children. He also made up an awesome nigiri order for my son. Since our girl doesn't eat sushi, it was nice to see a full menu available to include tempura. If you will fry it, she will come.

If you are stuck on 123 in Vienna and are pressed for time, check it out. It's also a good place to come for a casual date night.

Cheers,

Chris

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We have gone here a few times since the owner/name change. I still think that the sushi was better and had more variety under the previous ownership. However, we have noticed that it has gotten a lot better with each subsequent visit. Most recently, over Memorial Day weekend, we split the Sushi for 2 platter, since we were too tired to make a decision. :lol: The amount of sushi on the platter was extremely generous, and all of it tasted fresh. We haven’t tried any of the non-sushi items yet.

As others have noted, the staff is extremely nice and child/baby friendly. This is now our go-to place if we want to dine out with our 10-month old. The waitresses and the chefs fawn over our little one and make us feel right at home.

Others can correct me, but I think that the signage above the restaurant, from Route 123, still says Kansai.

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Based on the recommendations here, the family and a friend and I decided to try here tonight, since we had a sushi craving. Definitely agree that the staff is extremely nice and baby-friendly. Small warning: since the place is small and usually pretty quiet (the music isn't played too loudly), the baby/child's noise will echo pretty well. DS did enjoy playing peek-a-boo with a little 10mos. old nearby.

I really like the fact that I didn't get dirty looks when I asked them to heat up DS's food for me (he's 18mos. old and I wasn't ready for him to have tempura or a whole serving of teriyaki/don type of food).

Miso was nice and not too salty, and the presentation of the food was very pretty. The sashimi was sliced generously thick and tasted pretty fresh.

We ordered the:

Sashimi Deluxe

California Roll

Tuna Roll

Red Carpet Roll (tuna with tuna wrapped on the outside and yummy mayo on top) and

Some sort of Avocado Roll (Dragon Roll?) with the avocado wrapped on the outside.

This was enough food for 1 large male and 2 females + some nibbling done by DS.

*Disclaimer* I didn't have a say in the Roll ordering, otherwise I probably wouldn't have ordered a basic tuna or Cali roll. Not that there's anything wrong with these rolls, but there was so much more on the menu than these!

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Based on the recommendations here, the family and a friend and I decided to try here tonight, since we had a sushi craving. Definitely agree that the staff is extremely nice and baby-friendly. Small warning: since the place is small and usually pretty quiet (the music isn't played too loudly), the baby/child's noise will echo pretty well. DS did enjoy playing peek-a-boo with a little 10mos. old nearby.

That was us at the nearby table! Please thank you son for getting our daughter to wave goodbye for the first time. :lol:

The sushi for 2 platter was terrific again, and service was as friendly as always. They even brought us out a complimentary appetizer because the waitress thought our order was taking a long time (even though we didn't think we were waiting that long). This is definitely our "go-to" place for a dinner out with our little one.

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This has become a go-to place for us. The quality of the fish is incredible and the sushi is always beautiful. The friendliness of the staff is an added bonus. Since we've started coming to Sakana, we haven't been as happy with our other neighborhood sushi joints (even Sushi Yama just down the road). I am close to addicted to the scallop, spicy tuna and uni. Sakana is located in the strip mall with Tuesday morning (next to Magruder's) on 123 -- and I never would have found it if it hadn't been written up on this board. Thanks!

That was us at the nearby table! Please thank you son for getting our daughter to wave goodbye for the first time. :lol:

The sushi for 2 platter was terrific again, and service was as friendly as always. They even brought us out a complimentary appetizer because the waitress thought our order was taking a long time (even though we didn't think we were waiting that long). This is definitely our "go-to" place for a dinner out with our little one.

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Have you been to Sushi Yama in the past month? I heard from someone who I trust that it has taken a big recent upturn.

I haven't been to Sushi Yama in two months, but when I'm back in town in September maybe I'll go back and give them another chance.

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Apparently, almost 2 (22mos. in this case) is a good age to start them on simple rolls, as evidenced by gebaby tonight: he finished off an entire California roll all by himself. That's after a half a bowl of Veggie Yakisoba and a full bowl of Miso soup. I'm shaking my head in amazement....

ETA: PS. The sashimi was nice, but the temakis Ken was making looked *really* good. Need to try that next time...

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Based on this thread, my wife and I gave Sakana a try recently and I'm very glad we did. I'm a regular at Yama (mainly carry-out), but that will now change. Yama had gone way down hill and while there's been some improvement, it's nice to have a good option.

The fish was all very fresh, with a good ratio of fish to rice. While I've only gone with standards so far for comparison purposes (tuna, salmon, hokigai, squid, spicy tuna roll), I've been impressed and will definitely try other things. I hope they survive, though, because that location seems jinxed.

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"a good ratio of fish to rice"

We hear this a lot on these threads and elsewhere. I think when most people write this, they are referring to a *high* fish/rice ratio. IMHO, however, that phenomenon -- huge pieces of fish on nigiri -- is one of the very worst characteristics of most U.S. sushi. The classic idea (or so I've been told -- and my experience at good sushi bars bears it out as the Platonic ideal), is that the fish should barely cover the rice, that the entire nigiri should be consumed in one bite, and that one should be able to savor the freshness of the fish and the rice in tandem, without one dominating the other. Better to have more pieces, and a better variety, than a handful of monster slabs of fish.

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The classic idea . . . is that the fish should barely cover the rice, that the entire nigiri should be consumed in one bite, and that one should be able to savor the freshness of the fish and the rice in tandem, without one dominating the other.

Actually that is just what I meant, depending on your definition of "barely." If I wanted just fish, I'd order sashimi. Several places I've been to recently, however, have had too much rice relative to the fish.

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I went to Yama on Friday and thought the rice was undercooked and that they made the rolls to wide and cut them too thick. Sakana seems to balance the amount of rice better. BTW the fish was not great at Yama, the service was soso. Some of the fish was tough (cartiage?) and just no as fresh as Sakana. My only problem is Sakana is closed on Sundays. Has anyone tried out the new sushi place near Bazin's?

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Had lunch there today. I ordered ramen noodles, uni, and saba. I don't know why I expect real ramen (at $8 a bowl) but these were just some instant noodles. I had a choice of regular or spicy broth. The spicy broth is definitely from a Korean recipe, if not directly from the soup base of Korean instant noodles. The uni and saba was fine. The pieces weren't overly generous in size. With a soda, tax and tip, $25. Miso soup and salad were provided gratis. Today, the salad had a sesame seed based dressing which I'm not a fan of. The chef and staff were very friendly. I think the chef greets most people in Japanse, Korean and English.

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Alas, all good things good to a end..sort of. It seems Ken and MJ sold Sakana. There are new owners (starting today), a new sushi menu, new chefs, soon a new name. My daughter has literally been crying for an hour and wants to boycott the new place. The food was not just the same, no reggae on the speakers, her sushi rice was in a different bowl, they did not know to keep the tofu out of her miso soup and mostly she missed Ken's quick wit and cheerful ways. While it is too soon to blog, the sushi was very different for me and like my daughter I mourn the passing of the baton. It is truly a sad day in the Johnston household. Wherever you end up Ken and MJ, we raise a glass in your honor.

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WHAT???? NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is incredibly sad news. MJ & Ken were the best. We go (used to go?) here at least twice a month. My daughter (2 1/2) always asks "let's go see MJ and Ken". They knew to add EXTRA tofu to my daughter's miso soup, and, without fail, would surprise us with something special from the chef. Please let us know if you find out where they wind up. They will certainly be missed.

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Will do Pete, I left them a VM today. I hope they are OK. Katie is still crushed and wants to have a party for them at the house or sell sushi to support them on the corner. I need to stay away for a few weeks to let the new owners adjust.

WHAT???? NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is incredibly sad news. MJ & Ken were the best. We go (used to go?) here at least twice a month. My daughter (2 1/2) always asks "let's go see MJ and Ken". They knew to add EXTRA tofu to my daughter's miso soup, and, without fail, would surprise us with something special from the chef. Please let us know if you find out where they wind up. They will certainly be missed.

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Boy, I go out of the country for two weeks and things fall apart. Inox and Sakana both closed? Ouch. While I rarely ate at Sakana in-house, I was a regular carry out customer, going several times a month. MJ and Ken were great. I wish them the very best of luck wherever they end up.

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