Minato

6815 Old Dominion Dr.

McLean

734-4100

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: Sushi and appetizers $1.25 to $6.95, entrees $8.95 to $19.50.

Cards: Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

No nonsmoking section.

Soups, sushi and salmon teriyaki are the highlights at this new storefront in a shopping strip on Old Dominion Drive just north of Chain Bridge Road.

Outside, a handmade sign in the window assures customers that the cooking is MSG-free. Inside, the decor is simple but pleasant -- there is light wood, translucent rice paper screen, and a sprig of flowers on each square table.

The traditional Japanese menu is short, dominated by sushi and sashimi offerings, and prices are generally moderate.

As you enter, the sushi chef is apt to greet you from the sushi bar, where he turns out beautiful, fresh specimens, both the familiar (tuna, yellowtail and mackerel) as well as some of the more exotic possibilities (two kinds of eel, squid and red clam). There are more than a dozen different maki sushi (vinegared sushi rice rolled in sheets of seaweed with various fillings of fish and vegetables).

If you don't like raw fish, there are cooked varieties (shrimp and ersatz crabs) or vegetarian rolls, such as the cucumber, that should appeal to even the most unadventurous.

One note about the service: Even with a sushi checklist in hand, I encountered a little difficulty communicating with the Asian staff and, although the food arrived promptly, water glasses and teacups were not refilled even on slow nights.

As for the delectable soups, for an appetizer try the Minato soup, a beef dumpling with vegetables that is outstanding. The broth is light but not without character; bits of carrots, cabbage, seaweed, beaten egg whites and a plump dumpling add extra flavor and interest.

For a meal in a bowl, there is a first-rate tempura udon, a delightful mix of tastes and textures. The faintly sweet stock teems with crunchy vegetables, chewy rice cake slices and thick wheat noodles, all topped off with pieces of lacy batter-fried shrimp and vegetables.

Sukiyaki, another example of one-pot cookery, features thin slices of beef, vegetables and noodles simmered in a cooking liquid of sweetened soy sauce and sake. The version available here in a minimum order for two ($23.50) is a bit sweeter than usual but eminently enjoyable.

Another good choice is the salmon teriyaki, perfectly broiled to a moist flakiness and enhanced by a teriyaki glaze. But less appealing are both the chicken teriyaki and the similar yakitori appetizer, which use more dark than white meat.

The vegetables and shrimp tempura came off well with the requisite lacy batter.

The perfect finish is a plate of seasonal fruit ($2), such as watermelon, grapes and strawberries. Ice cream and slices of a sweet bean jelly are also available.