There are two ways to experience this second-floor, honey-hued Japanese restaurant near Dupont Circle. One is to open a menu and eat at a table. My preferred time to dine in this fashion is lunch, when Sushi Taro serves a $13 bento box: Glazed salmon, delicate shrimp tempura and red snapper sashimi make for an affordable luxury. A second strategy involves opening your mind and letting chef Nobu Yamazaki make the decisions at his six-stool, white oak counter in the rear of the restaurant.
Omakase (“chef’s choice”) is not an inexpensive proposition. The meter for the meal starts at $140 a person. But the seats — and the chef’s attention — are yours for the duration of the night, and nowhere else do the hours pass as serenely as they do in this hushed setting. Hot towels are followed by 10 or so edible poems. White shrimp, so small that 20 of them fit in the bowl of a spoon, are set off with a dab of black caviar, and what looks like charred crab is in fact soft-shell crab in a coat of tempura made black with squid ink. Live octopus? Goose barnacles and sea beans splashed with kelp broth and staged against river rocks? The gang’s all here. For the sashimi course, at least 30 different fish — among them pike mackerel, wild rockfish and eel — are proffered from black lacquer boxes like the gems that they are. One of the simplest yet richest dishes of my year thus far was a well-marbled finger of Wagyu beef, seared with a blow torch, paired with sea urchin and strewn with shaved summer truffles.
A nit: no dedicated waiters, so if you want more sake or drop your napkin, the chef has to call for (or overlook) the matter. Even so, for Japan to feel any closer, you’d have to be hoisting chopsticks in Tokyo.