By Hayleigh Colombo - 11/17/10 10:19 PM EST
Kushi has a nightclub vibe from the minute you walk in and past black canvas curtains. You’re immediately hit by the pulse of trendy English folk rock songs. I was greeted by a friendly host staff and was escorted to the dining room within minutes, despite the small crowd of people that had started to spill past the curtains.
En route, I passed two of the restaurant’s three bars (regular and hibachi) and was seated at the sushi bar, farthest from the bobbing heads of twenty-somethings who were sipping cocktails at the regular bar.
The food and service lived up to (or even surpassed) the restaurant’s trendy ambiance.
My server was knowledgeable and friendly and immediately brought me a personal glass bottle of sparkling mineral water which added a classy touch, proving little things really do still count when it comes to service.
While the palate cleanser of seaweed and carrots tossed in soy sauce was pleasant (and certainly an upgrade to the usually overly salty miso soup you so frequently receive from sushi restaurants), I was blown away by the variety of Kushi’s menu—and even more surprised when they excelled at so many of the dishes.
The fatty tuna and scallion maki roll is a must-order, arguably blowing out of the water the tuna rolls at myriad sushi joints that I’ve visited. It had a buttery and decadent texture, although I hoped for a less bland accompaniment than scallion—which was a popular complement to quite a few of their dishes.
Another favorite was the kushiyaki duck skewer of kamonegi breast and scallion that I ordered served tare (lightly covered in a thick, sweet and seasoned soy sauce) per my server’s suggestion. The duck breast was tender and perfectly sauced and this time the scallion did not disappoint, adding the perfect savory complement to the sweet duck breast. The skewer was presented with a dollop of spicy mustard and a bed of spices that I ended up not using for fear of masking the perfect taste of the duck.
My final dish was a trio of unagi (eel) nigiri and kinmedai (deep sea golden snapper) and suna zuri (yellowtail belly) sashimi.
While I’ve never ventured to a sushi restaurant without ordering the unagi nigiri, I selected the kin medai and suna zuri merely because my server said they were two of the restaurant’s best bets. She was not lying.
The unagi was tender and a standard favorite (I’ve never had a piece of eel that I didn’t love), and I ate three beautifully cut slices of the bright pink kinmedai snapper which was served with a small part of skin left on, which I tend to prefer to “naked” sashimi. It’s a personal preference, but I always think leaving the skin on top offers a great complement to the soft underside.
But the best pieces of fish I ate that night were undoubtedly the suna zuri yellowtail belly sashimi. I was blown away. Had it not been so crowded, I would have kissed the sushi chef who sliced it so perfectly to reveal the velvety texture. It was like he allowed me to experience my first true taste of yellowtail. Don’t go to Kushi and leave without getting the yellowtail belly.
I finished the meal with a trio of mango, vanilla and green tea flavored mochi ice cream (a standard dessert at trendy sushi joints) and a pot of green tea. At this point, the club-like vibe wound down a little and I got to experience Kushi at its most intimate with couples and friends huddled together over soft yellow candlelight, sharing a dish or two or three or four. It might be hard to choose what to eat at Kushi, but don’t let that stop you from experiencing one of D.C.’s trendy new hangouts for sushi lovers.