It’s hard to dispute that Sushi Taro, Kaz Sushi Bistro and Makoto are championing sushi in this city. Unfortunately for some, their hefty prices can put them a chopstick’s length out of reach. Here are three lesser-known Japanese eateries that keep check tallies down and authenticity up, making sushi more accessible.
1039 33rd St. NW; 202-333-4649
This Japanese restaurant is no larger than a Tokyo apartment, so its 24 seats are in high demand. Chef-owners Tetsuro Takanashi and Ken Yamamoto opened Kintaro in May 2013 after leaving Makoto, where eight courses would set you back $95.
At Kintaro, they keep costs down by sticking to basic fish like tuna, salmon and snapper and offering a small but mighty menu. You’ll hardly miss variety because they get the little things right, like packing flavor into ramen broth, and serving chubby, shiny sushi rice.
Best bet: Chirashi sushi ($14 at lunch), a jewel box of artfully arranged sashimi atop rice, with soup and salad.
1990 K St. NW No. 400; 202-659-1955
Don’t let the Styrofoam cups and graying posters fool you at this hidden gem within an office building: Sushi Express turns out food worthy of a white tablecloth. The average roll costs $3.50, always made-to-order.
Chef Yoshifumi Yasuoka has been serving these treasures from behind the counter at Sushi Express for 30 years. Whatever your order, he’ll know it next time thanks to a super-human memory. (You do not want to play against him in Simon, the light-up memory game.)
Best bets: A $9 combo of two picks from the sushi and warm dish menus, or a $10 bento box. Cash only.
325 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-627-0325
The going rate for an omakase (chef’s choice) sushi tasting in D.C. is upward of $150. Strike a hundo from that at Sushi Capitol, where $50 is the buy-in for a “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”-like experience. Chef Minoru Ogawa will pass you single pieces of nigiri to ensure each is enjoyed within seconds of his slicing it.
The rotating arsenal of 25-30 species of fish means you’ll never have the same experience twice. What remains constant is the progression of sushi from mild fish like tuna and snapper up to heavy hitters in the flavor department like sea urchin and back down.
Pro tip: Make a reservation, because the omakase menu is offered only at the sushi bar seats.
Still want to get your fancy fish fix? Here’s how to do it for less:
- During happy hour at Sushi Taro (1503 17th St. NW) on Mondays through Fridays from 5:30 to 7 p.m., all sushi is half price in the bar area.
- Kaz Sushi Bistro (1915 I St. NW) offers a daily $16 lunch special that includes nigiri, maki rolls and a bento box.
- At lunch, Kotobuki (4822 MacArthur Blvd. NW) offers an unadon set for $12.95 that includes broiled fresh water eel on rice served with four house specialty dishes and miso soup.
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