Saturday night we went to Kotobuki, craving sushi after a hot afternoon canoeing on the Potomac (one of the best outdoors activities to do in DC during the summer) and shopping in Georgetown. This was also another Washingtonian find, #52 on the 2009100 Best Restaurants in DC list.
It’s quite a drive to get there, since it’s in the Palisades neighborhood, next to the reservoir. The restaurant is teeny tiny, located on the second floor of a row of connected townhouses. You would never know it was there. It’s only accessible by car and far from any Metro stop. Nevertheless, the restaurant was packed when we went and the line didn’t disappear the whole time we were there (I felt sorry for the parties of three they seated at the table for two adjoining the sushi bar. Awkward).
Cute place. Crowd was all young-ish, couples out on dates (all white men with Asian women…), small groups of friends, a few singles reading and eating at the bar. Old Japanese men behind the sushi bar, Asian waitresses with heavy accents. T got a Sapporo, I got a Japanese green tea in a can. We ordered: uni (sea urchin) nigiri, toro (fatty tuna) nigiri, clam miso soup, oshizushi (fresh mackerel on pressed rice), eel kamameshi (broiled fresh water eel with a sweet, teriyaki-like sauce cooked on top of rice and vegetables in an iron kettle, came with several pieces of whitetail and tuna sashimi, miso soup and several salad appetizers, kinpira, oshitashi, ankimo).
After the nigiri and before the eel kamameshi.
The uni and toro nigiri were some of the best I’ve ever had, especially the uni. At $3 per piece, it was definitely worth it. There’s nothing I love more than miso soup and clams so to be honest, the clam miso soup was my favorite part. The clams were big, full, flavorful, clean and fresh, which I rarely find in the US. I like eating miso soup with rice. It’s a terribly fattening proclivity so don’t do it in large portions. The oshizushi tasted as described in the review, like freshly caught saltwater fish. It was good but I’m not sure I’d order it again. The broiled eel in the eel kamameshi melted in your mouth! It was so tasty.
Overall, the experience was everything a Japanese sushi restaurant should be. Delicious, fresh sushi without gimmicks. Authentic, traditional, intimate. I’ve never been to Japan but it felt like what a restaurant in Japan would be like in my head. The total price for dinner came out to be more than we expected, given that this was supposed to be a “cheap eat” place, but I suspect that’s because we ordered the most expensive / recommended things on the menu. It’s a good thing the location is so bad. Otherwise 1) I would visit it too often to the detriment of my wallet, 2) too many other people would visit too often and it’d get ruined by commercial success.
4.5 out of 5 stars!