Quick Japanese just steps from the Capitol

Capitol Hill staffers who think they don’t have time to sit down and eat a sushi lunch should think again. 

Kyoto — located at 201 Massachusetts Ave. NE — is a fast and satisfying way for congressional aides to quench that sushi craving without sacrificing their afternoon work schedule. The restaurant’s proximity to congressional office buildings — five minutes from the Senate side, 10 from the House side — makes it possible for busy staffers to leave their desks for a worry-free midday meal. 

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The secret to Kyoto’s quick turnaround is its unique setup. While most Japanese restaurants are sit-down with service, Kyoto has its customers order their lunches at a counter, bypassing five to 10 minutes of wait time. Once chefs prepare the sushi, a process that takes as little as four minutes, patrons have the option to take their meal back to the office or sit down.

For those who choose to stay, the restaurant offers plenty of tables for groups as large as five. The dining room is adorned with traditional Japanese shoji screens and artwork. 

Kyoto won’t break the bank, either — a lunch special with a dozen pieces of sushi costs $9.95. 

Add in a fountain drink, and a full sushi lunch can cost less than $13. 

The restaurant offers a traditional sushi-by-the-roll menu, including California rolls, tuna rolls, salmon rolls and a variety of special rolls that carry higher price tags. During lunch, however, patrons tend to order the sushi lunch specials, which offer combinations of rolls and nigiri (a piece of raw fish on top of a small clump of rice). These dishes range from $7.95 to $9.95.

If raw fish doesn’t sound appealing, Kyoto has multiple cooked dishes on its menu. Each day of the week, the restaurant has a different special that comes with stir-fried vegetables, salad, rice and a fountain drink for $7. Most of these dishes are teriyaki-variations, but on Wednesday and Thursday, Kyoto offers Chicken and Beef Donburi (meat and vegetables simmered together over rice). 

Diners should expect to have leftovers if they order one of these specials — the combo of veggies, meat and rice is more than enough to feed one mouth. 

Another standout on Kyoto’s menu is the Chicken Gyoza. These crispy, deep-fried dumplings come with rice, salad and a sweet dipping sauce, and are great to share with a group of co-workers. Six dumplings cost $6.95, eight dumplings $7.95.

Though there is nothing fancy about Kyoto’s food or décor, the restaurant’s quick service and cheap specials make it an essential lunch destination for Capitol Hill staffers.

 Kyoto also gives staffers a break from the suits and ties of the Capitol — a mixture of law enforcement officials and other locals frequent the restaurant.