Friday Question of the Day – Best Sushi in the District? Best Sushi inside the Beltway?

Photo by PoPville flickr user bajidc

So with Sushiko and Cafe Japone closing plus Perry’s switching to sushi in Adams Morgan, well it got me thinking about sushi. While we’ve spoken a lot about Ramen lately with Taan, Daikaya, and Toki Underground well, I feel like we’ve been neglecting sushi. For this week’s Friday Question of the Day, I thought it was a good time to reassess the best sushi in the District? And if it’s really really good, best sushi inside the beltway?

Years ago when we spoke about sushi options in DC there were tons of fans of Sushi Taro at 1503 17th Street, NW. Still a lot of fans of Sushi Taro? I think I’m leaning towards Izakaya Seki at 1117 V Street, NW as my favorite. Where’s yours?

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  • Just outside the DC line — I like the sushi at Mei Wah restaurant in Friendship Heights. Their bento box lunches are also good.

    • Plus ichi. Makoto a close second.

    • jim_ed

      Definitely Kotobuki, although I’ve never eaten at Makoto. Their shrimp dumplings are superb as well.

      If you’re out and about in the suburbs, I recommend Sakura, the chain Japanese Steakhouse for Sushi. Their Sushi has always blown away most of the strip-mall Sushi joints.

  • I really like Thai Chef in Dupont.

  • For being in the mid Atlantic – which is an area renowned for its seafood – DC really does have mediocre sushi. What gives???

    • Agree. On the whole, DC sushi is much worse, and far more expensive, than Midwestern cities like St.Paul/MPLS, Ann Arbor, Chicago, and Milwaukee.

    • The mid Atlantic is renowned for things like crabcakes, which is totally different than sushi.

  • I like Tsunami on 14th. Great sushi and not pricey

  • Kotobuki is the hands down winner followed not that closely by sushi taro

    • Agreed. It’s weird that in a city with amazing Japanese grilles (Itzakaya Seki) and Japanese ramen (Daikaya, Toki Underground), sushi is so hard to get. Especially since we’re a coastal city, no less.

      • not sure what a coastal city really has to do with sushi in this day and age. you think sushi sold in new york is caught in the hudson river?

        • Really? Let me explain slowly and with small words: Fish swim in the ocean. Therefore, fish get caught in the ocean. The further a fish caught in the ocean has to go from where the boat arrives in port to the place where it will be served, the less fresh it will be.

          • what percent of fish served in good sushi places in Los Angeles do you think are caught off the west coast of the US? probably a very small %.

          • Your snark is coming from 100% ignorance of the seafood industry. Nice try though. As anonymous notes, very little sushi at most sushi places (regardless of locale) is local.

          • Tell that to the high-end sushi establishments in New York, for example, who buy fish that is caught in the North Atlantic, flown to Japan for sale at Tsukiji, and then flown back to the Northeast U.S.

  • Neither Sushiko nor Cafe Japone are a loss, though the fact that their departures are noteworthy says a lot about the state of sushi in DC.

    Sushi Taro and Makoto are in my opinion the two best sushi spots in town, though they are both very expensive and so are a rare treat. The sushi at Kushi is always fresh, they have things like amberjack that are hard to find, and their uni and seared salmon belly are exceptional. For cheaper but decent, consistent fare, I rely on Momiji. Have yet to try Seki.

    • Kushi has declined considerably since they first opened. No longer worth the extra price for me.

      • Um, they weren’t that great when they opened. Their speciality is grilled items, not raw fish. The sushi is just there because gringos would complain, “This is a Japanese restaurant? I thought Japanese people only ate sushi.”

        • Technically correct but Izakaya restaurants typically would carry sashimi on their menu so it is not a huge leap.

        • I always thought their special menu was worth the visit. I’ve had some incredible things off it.

          Your right their regular sushi is average – which after they nixed the special menu (“because everything there is special” – aka cost cutting) I stopped going.

          My local favorite now is Endo in Arlington. I think the owners are from Osaka as they have things like Okonomiyaki and the squid balls there.

  • I know a lot of people will think this sounds somewhat pedestrian, but Thai Chef in Dupont consistently has the best sushi in DC. I’ve had good sushi at many other places, but Thai Chef is always good and not nearly as expensive as many places.

  • Still Taro for me. Have yet to check out Seki though.

  • Aaah, always a loaded question which begets many more questions. What restaurants should be considered? Pure “Japanese” places like Taro or Makoto? Korean-owned places like Tono? “Fusion” joints like Tsunami? Places that are outright not Japanese restaurants but have “sushi” on the menu like Mei Wah or Thai Chef? And who’s opinion should be considered? People who dip their rice into the soy sauce? Those who eat their miso soup with spoons? So many questions left unanswered….

  • But what about delivery sushi? Say, to Columbia Heights?

    • Tono in Woodley Park is my go to. Reasonable prices and pretty good food. Plus they deliver. Try the kimchi tuna rool!!

      • I second this. Tono is still my favorite, especially for fun rolls like the crunchy spicy tofu roll. They are decently priced and super friendly. I have missed them since we moved out of their delivery area.

  • Sushi Taro is still great, but not the once-every-week-or-two place that it used to be.

    I work in Woodley Park, where the lunch options are seriously limited. Tono has served me one too many mealy pieces of fish, so they’re out. Lately I’ve been going for the rolls special at Umi. About $10 for two rolls and miso soup. Not the best sushi ever, but serviceable and priced accordingly.

  • Am I weird for liking the sushi at Whole Foods?

    • do you think its the best?

    • Whole Foods sushi is probably the best of all grocery store sushi, but I would hesitate to compare it to any sushi you can get at a restaurant.

    • If you like something, it is not weird. Half the time questions like this appeal to our inner snob. In the end, who cares what other people think. I frequently get Sushi at Whole Foods and I have traveled to Japan many times and enjoyed some of the best Sushi they have to offer.

      • It’s ok for what it is but also expensive for what it is.. I’ve had better super market sushi in other cities. WF doesn’t get called out for its great inconsistency–a lot of the bakery stuff is awful and the sandwiches are overpriced given the ingredients.

  • Momiji on H St NW!

  • What about Kaz Sushi?

    • After Sushi Taro, I think Kaz has the best sushi in town. It’s flown in fresh from Tsukiji. About 15 years ago Kaz was the sushi chef at Sushi-ko and then he left to open his own place. If you haven’t been I highly recommend it and as at all sushi restaurants it’s best to sit at the counter and find out directly from the sushi chef (who is often Kaz in the evenings) what it best that day.

    • Seriously the best sushi in DC is Kaz. I am surprised it took so many comments for it to show up, but since they are packed at lunch and dinner I’m sure they don’t mind. Plus the place is full of Japanese businessmen all the time, so that tells you it’s good.

      The Hawaiian Walu nigiri they serve that no one else seems to have is the best thing I have ever eaten. And the broiled green mussels as a starter are so good I lick the shells clean.

      Love that place. And they recognize me and know my preferences since I’ve been going there almost exclusively since 2000 or so.

  • Sushi Para in Van Ness is ALL YOU CAN EAT. And I swear to you that it is fresh, good quality sushi. I know you would expect all you can eat sushi to be Whole Foods quality, but it is really high quality, delicious sushi (and that’s coming from a self-proclaimed sushi snob).


    • Wow, awesome! What is the all-you-can-eat price?

      • $19.95, I believe! And it includes other items (shumai dumplings, miso soup, yakitori chicken skewers, salads, veggie tempura) plus special roles and sashimi. It’s my favorite restaurant in DC, no doubt. The only rule is you have to eat all you order, or you get charged (I think it’s like 25 cents per piece you leave). But I always find a way to finish every bite 🙂

    • So I have never done the all you can eat. And I just tried them for the first time a few weeks ago and came away impressed since this neighborhood is horrible in terms of good food choices.

      Not bad sushi, I may have to try out the all you can eat. Priced pretty reasonably too.

    • Sushi Para is totally legit. The AYCE is like 25 bucks and the sushi is damn good. I’m sure a lot of people will scoff at AYCE and Van Ness, but the place is good and it’s never crowded.

  • How about worst sushi!?

  • Surprised no one brought up Sushi Capitol near the hill. They use real wasabi and are actually Japanese.

    • Probably because it’s relatively new and under-the-radar. I live nearby and haven’t been there yet (my girlfriend loves Nooshi so it’ll be hard to convince her to try something new) so thanks for the recommendation!

    • I second Sushi Capitol. I went to Nooshi after having tried Sushi Capitol and there’s no comparison.

  • There’s a couple of rolls at Asian Spice in Chinatown that aren’t too bad, but it’s hard to find a decent sushi spot in DC.

    I went to a place called Sushi House in Rockville Pike last week, and that was really good, cheap, fresh, and delicious. Probably the best chicken dumplings I’ve had.

    My girlfriend loves this place called Wasabi Bistro in College Park. You get a ton of sushi (I believe 3 rolls for like $16), it’s OK.

    Tara Temple in NOVA is really good as well.

  • The best sushi I ever had in D.C. was at Taro. I did have an excellent meal at Kush Izakaya once when it first opened. For consistently good I will go with Taro. I agree that our sushi scene is only so so, however.

  • For quick grab and go sushi, Hana Market has premade sushi available on weekdays. But it’s usually sold out by the time I get there after work. Really good stuff.

  • Anyone know any good sushi restaurants in downtown silver spring? We just moved over that way and so far the sushi’s not great.

  • Kushi may not be the very best, but they still have great sushi. They always have a few items on the menu I never see anywhere else (yellowtail belly, extra fatty tuna) and pretty much always deliver. I agree that they excitement they had when they first opened has waned somewhat, but I was there last weekend and the menu and food were fantastic.

    For sushi though, nothing is touching Sushi Toro.

  • I have to say that I’m a fan of Yo! Sushi at Union Station. The sushi isn’t sensational, but it’s affordable and the conveyor belt style of service is authentic to many Japanese sushi spots. Plus, on Monday nights they have “Blue $3 Plate Night” when anything on the conveyor is available for $3!

  • Lived in Japan for a few years, and so I’m spoiled when it comes to sushi. Been in DC for several years, and, sadly and not to my surprise, really, I’ve yet to have great sushi here. Izakaya Seki might be the closest thing, but I think they excel more at other dishes. I don’t have a car, but my bet is there’s better sushi somewhere within driving distance.

    • Yeah I should have prefaced all my sarcastic posts that, having been to Japan like 19 times, I am a self-professed sushi/sashimi snob.

  • kotobuki, makoto, and izakaya seki.

  • lukecolorado

    Moby Dick. Yes, it’s OTP, but it’s Metro accessible.

  • I’m DC born and raised and the best by far is Kotobuki in the Palisades. I haven’t been anywhere else that measures up to its quality and prices.

  • For those of you puzzled by the fact that DC is near a coast and doesn’t have amazing sushi, it really does not matter where a place is these days. Even in Japan, most of the fish is not from nearby but flown in from across the world. I recommend reading the book “The Sushi Economy”. Pretty easy read on the growth and spread of sushi in the world.

  • I work downtown on 14th Street, and, believe it or not, The Hamilton at 14th/F actually has excellent sushi. Very, very fresh. Some great rolls. It’s pricier and they don’t deliver, but for such a large restaurant, I’m consistently impressed with the sushi quality.

    • I agree. You’d never think of it as a sushi place, but it’s really good. And half price during Happy Hour. I dig their bento boxes at lunch too.

  • Thai Chef in Dupont

  • Momiji for sure — 5th and H NW.

  • Sakana on P street is fantastic.

  • Technically outside the district, but Yoyogi in Gaithersburg is unreal (big pieces of fish, low prices, yummm)

    • “technically”!! Er, it’s like half way to West Virginia. Dang, Gaithersburg is so far out it’s pretty much hard to decide whether to drive or fly. Dang, I mean that place is barely in this hemisphere.

  • Haven’t been in a while, but Sakana in Dupont Circle was always good. Very neighborhoody place that always seemed comfortably full of regulars.

  • Not going to lie, for the price, I really don’t think you can beat Kyoto on Senate side. The staff are so friendly and the fish is super fresh. Big fan!

  • Outside of DC but inside the beltway: Tachibana

  • Theres a reason this thread has and will blow up – its because the lack of good sushi in DC is the true foodie conundrum that leaves me constantly shaking my head. And apparently, everyone else as well.

    I love DC, and the food scene is becoming truly amazing, however it is lacking the one great sushi place.

    I came here from Los Angeles, and I feel like one ‘LA/Ventura Blvd’ style sushi place could fill a huge void. please just rip off this place.

    The problem with the sushi here is the recipes. The spicy crunchy ___ roll is always terrible, and tells me that the sushi place doesn’t really know what they are doing.

    You can’t get baked scallops (dynamite) anywhere in town, this dish is a staple of California sushi and I would love to see it brought around for everyones sake.

    That all said, if you love sushi like me, I will echo all of those who love Sushi Para in Van Ness, If you are going to eat DC sushi, you might as well make it all you can eat and get a good deal on it. Para is legit.

    Sushi happy hour at Hamilton is also a quality choice. No spicy crunchies to be found.

  • I am not a sushi connoisseur, but I think Nooshi in Dupont is actually good with really reasonable prices. Agree Kotobuki is the best, but it’s such a trek to get there.

  • Murasaki, on Wisconsin Ave in Tenleytown.

  • I’m surprised at so few mentions of nigiri on this thread! I love sushi rolls but my boyfriend loves nigiri/sashimi and we generally have a hard time finding a place that does both well. This turns into a bit of a battle every time we go for sushi.

    We’ve found that:

    Tono – great nigiri but terrible rolls with too much mayo, special sauce and tempura crispies globbed on every roll.

    Farmers Fishers + Bakers –had both good nigiri and rolls – their chef shared some amazing tuna with a drop of truffle oil on it – it was outstanding.

    Spices has good rolls and decent nigiri but terrible service. The waiter brought the sushi rice out about 15 minutes before the sashimi the last time we visited, and got pissed when we asked them to warm up the sushi rice.
    Zentan used to have amazing sushi but now it’s turned into this Japanese inspired cooked comfort food place – it’s no longer the charm it once was.

    We found Kaz to be underwhelming when we visited. The sushi was pricey for the portions and quality, and we found the nigiri/sashimi to be not that great.

    Sushiko was my long running favorite for their extremely high quality rolls and nigiri. I might give Kotobuki a visit this weekend because it’s never shown up on my radar until today.

  • No one likes Nooshi?

    • I think it was mentioned a couple times. I don’t think the sushi’s exceptional but it’s good enough and I love the decor and ambiance (Cap Hill location).

  • I always enjoy my meals at Plum Blossom in Adams Morgan.

  • I’ll second recommendations for Taro and Kotobuki. I love Seki, but would argue that it’s not sushi…just some excellent sashimi on an izakaya menu.

    Outside the beltway, Tachibana is great. I put it on par with the pre-renovation Taro.

    I’m afraid to mention my favorite, as I fear I’ll never get a seat again…but Kintaro in Georgetown (!) is amazing…my best west coast substitute.

  • I lived in Japan for 6 years and like Kintaro in Georgetown (good Ramen too!). Kotobuki and Sakana are good too. Taro is good if you can afford it.

    • Surprised there aren’t more mentions of Kintaro. Probably too new. It’s among the best in the district.

  • Hello everyone – this is my first-ever comment here, so please be gentle with me. 🙂

    I agree with the Prince in that Sushi Taro and Izakaya Seki are my two favorite restaurants for sashimi in the DC area, but there’s a small (but critical!) distinction that should be made.

    Sushi is different than Sashimi in that Sushi uses rice, and Sashimi doesn’t.

    The only reason I bring this up is because Izakaya Seki doesn’t serve sushi; only sashimi, so if you go in there and ask for sushi, they won’t have it. I know a lot of people use the terms interchangeably, but I just don’t want anyone to be disappointed if they go to Izakaya Seki looking for sushi – but *do* try their sashimi – it’s great!

    Keep up the good work, Prince, and carry on.

    • What’s your favorite spot for sushi then? Or are you not a fan?

      • Oh, I’m a huge fan – Sushi Taro for me (they serve both).

        • By the way, I should add that sushi doesn’t use “any old rice” – making sushi rice is a time-consuming art form (really!) that people in Japan take decades to master. I’ve heard about frustrated diners going into Izakaya Seki and asking, “Can’t you just make me some?” But unfortunately, the answer is, by necessity, “no” because sushi rice is not something you can just make on the spot. I suspect most of you know this, but I thought I’d mention it just in case.

          • “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” Great movie on the about the art of sushi: “A documentary on 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono”

  • Yuzu Japanese Dining just opened in Bethesda, MD in April. The chef is very famous in Tokyo and used to own restaurants in the Ginza district. He and his wife (who makes house specialty desserts on occasion) run the restaurant. It is expensive, but some of the best sushi I have gotten in the US!

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