Tuesday, September 4, 2007

There’s No Place Like Near Home

1503 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC

4 out of 5 grains

Craving a little Japanese food, the Mrs and I strolled down 17th street to Sushi Taro, which I am convinced is a much under-appreciated slice of Japan in DC. Our meal, consumed at the Sushi bar right in front of the head chef was simple, delicious and featured only the freshest ingredients. No sushi was had, and it was not missed.

We began with the special of freshly made creamy tofu, which was served with grated ginger and scallions on top, with sea salt on one side and soy on the other. The texture of the tofu was heaven, so light and creamy – almost like a yogurt but without the tang. A great starter.

The other special we had was grilled “Hon Shishamo,” small whole grilled little mackerel served hot with only a lemon wedge. These were so tasty, eaten bones and all. Only the head was left, but the meaty white flesh contained in a crispy little package was really good. Nicely salty, meaty and crispy all in one.

Our main course was a bowl of simple hot udon with seaweed. The udon were machine made and a little too soft, but serviceable. The broth was a tad on the sweet side, as I prefer a bit more fish and bite, but pleasing. Overall, however, the weakest part of the meal. I’d skip this next time and try another special.

The other highlight was the black cod with miso (Gindara Sakekasu). This was terrific, and a far superior version to that we had at Go Japan in NY a few weeks back. The lush cod was so succulent; it just melted in our mouths. The miso was not very noticeable, so a bit lacking overall, but really good stuff. I would have preferred for the skin to be crispier, but I guess the miso keeps it a bit moist.

Our other main was the Ika Yaki, whole grilled squid. This was fantastic as well, served in a rich soy sauce (mirin?) covered with grated ginger and scallions. The chewy squid rings have just the right combination of give and bite, fresh and delicious. The chef even looked down and smiled, noting “usually only Japanese people order this”. He later joked as he served up a big platter of soft shell crab rolls for another customer that “this is not Japanese food.”

I was still a little hungry after the mains were gone, so we ordered two pieces of the yellow tail and Uni (sea urchin), both sashimi style. The yellow tail was cut thick and was perfect, fresh and a great texture. Tasted like it had come right out of the ocean. The Uni was also incredibly fresh (even better than the Uni I had last week flying back through Narita). It was lush and melted like custard. As my lovely wife said, this is just like a dessert. Is she ever wrong?!

We left full and satisfied, and all for under 40 a person. It goes to show that we should appreciate the solid, even surpassingly good Asian food right in our own neck of the woods. The service was adequate, although we were right in the rush, so that slowed things up a bit. But the key factors – fresh ingredients, served quickly and with a little style, made it a great meal.