Satsuma

Japanese, Sushi
$$$$ ($15-$24)
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Choose between sushi or seared meats and veggies fresh off the grill.
Mon-Thu 11:30 am-2 pm
5-10 pm; Fri 11:30 am-2 pm
5-10:30 pm; Sun 11:30 am-2 pm
5-9 pm
(Bethesda)
301-652-1400
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Editorial Review

Tom Sietsema wrote about Satsuma for a May 2009 First Bite column.

Cross the threshold of Satsuma, and it's easy to feel as if you're still outside, thanks to the Japanese restaurant's corner location and wraparound windows that draw in pools of sunlight even early in the evening. Servers rush to greet you, and the first thing they want to know is how you prefer to eat.

Express an interest in sushi or chicken teriyaki, for instance, and they will steer you to one of 10 or so tables in the spare but elegant dining room, or maybe the small sushi counter in the back of the place. Tell them you have a hankering for grilled meat or seafood, on the other hand, and there's a strong possibility you'll be led to a more intimate space outfitted with six broad tables that require you to shed your shoes and slip your feet into a well beneath the backless booths. White screens hanging between the tables give occupants a sense of privacy; purple pillows lend a touch of elegance. There's nothing here to remind locals that the kitchen accents at this address were Italian before Satsuma opened in November.

Those special tables, brought over from his native Japan by co-owner Akihito Domen, are the means by which diners are expected to sizzle their meals to doneness (diners can choose beef short ribs, skirt steak or tongue; squid, sea bass or shrimp; or vegetables including mushrooms and asparagus). Each buffed surface comes with a built-in griddle that is lit after your order is placed. The scene appears set for an hour or so of fun: Japanese barbecue!

Except, hold the exclamation point. The meat I tried was nothing special and begs for enhancement, although what tends to show up, a thick and cloying soy sauce, isn't exactly a booster shot. Ask instead for miso sauce.

Satsuma's steamed shrimp dumplings, delicate and sweet, are a small consolation. And helping to fill in some gaps is piping-hot tempura: shrimp and onion, zucchini and carrots in a decent batter.

A second beer sweetens the experience, too.

Entrees, $13-$27.

(May 27, 2009)