Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kyoto Sushi

We don't get up to the Capitol Hill neighborhood too often (this may change things) but after our friends recommended a casual sushi place near Union Station, we felt we had to check it out. When we lived in Santa Monica, CA there was a fantastic sushi place right around the corner from our house called Ninjin. It's the kind of place where the sushi chefs greet you when you walk in the door and the menu is varied and moderately priced. Ever since we moved to DC, we've been looking (in vain) for Ninjin East.

When we climbed up the steep steps and opened the door to Kyoto Sushi, we looked at each other and smiled huge smiles. It just felt like home. Casual restaurant? Check. Sushi chefs greeting you when you walk in? Check. Stereotypical "American Japanese restaurant decor"? Check.

Kyoto is located in a long, narrow rowhouse. It has a small front seating area, sushi bar, and larger back seating area. Best of all, we didn't have to wait for a table at 8pm on Friday night (yes, I'm looking at you Sushi Taro...)

We kicked things off with the Japanese restaurant appetizer trifecta: edamame, ginger salad, and miso soup. Solid.

I love udon noodle soups and was very happy with Kyoto's Nabeyaki Udon. The broth was flavorful, even a tad sweet. It was packed with veggies and noodles, and served with a side of shrimp and veggie tempura. Not the best udon I've ever had (that award goes to Yashima in LA) but no complaints here.

B ordered an assortment of sushi rolls, as well as hamachi (yellowtail) and maguro (tuna) nigiri. Unfortunately he missed out on the toro (fatty tuna) which was not available. The rolls were generously stuffed with fresh fish and the nigiri melted in our mouths. If you're a big eater, you're probably going to want to order at least 3 rolls because they aren't huge.

Kyoto isn't fancy and the menu is not exactly what I'd call innovative, but that's exactly why we liked it. We can go to Kaz if we want sexy sushi. When we don't want to spend an arm and a leg and are craving Japanese, Kyoto is where we'll be heading. They have a 99 cent sushi happy hour that we might work up the courage to try, but isn't there an old saying that goes something like: don't eat raw fish that's on sale?

Second Thoughts From B

I write this from the perspective of someone who has recently O.D.ed on sushi. Two days after going to Kyoto Sushi, I was able to learn the art of sushi making from Russell Saito, who is the sushi chef at Roy's Restaurant in LA (one of J's favorites) and a family friend. Not wanting any of the amazingly fresh and tasty ingredients to go to waste, I ended up taking home and eating enough sushi over the past four days to grow gills and a tail.

While this experience left me satiated, if not adverse to the thought of raw fish for at least a few days, it also helped grow my appreciation for the art of quality sushi. Simply put, the artists at Kyoto Sushi are no hacks. The rice is light, fluffy, fresh, and sweet, setting a great foundation. The fish was plump and generous, allowing it to take center stage. The presentation, always a heightened priority for sushi, was artfully done. But most importantly, it all tasted good.

Of particular note was the House special roll (I can't remember the official name). It seems like at most places, if you want to taste great fish, you have to stick with nigri or sashimi. If you want bold flavors and interesting textures, you're stuck with rolls. In the case of Kyoto Sushi's House special roll, however, you could get both. It might be the first roll that I've had which prominently features the flavors and textures of the fish. What a delight.
Kyoto Sushi on Urbanspoon


Quinn said...

Thanks for the review! I've driven by that place many, many times and have often wondered what it was like - now I know!

Elizabeth @ Capital Spice said...

You should also check out Momoyama on the Hill if you like the casual, neighborly sushi experience. We've recently switched our sushi allegiance to this tiny spot and haven't looked back.