I am not dead, though I probably should be. DC Restaurant Week came and went, and I tackled six restaurants over the span of four days. I filled my brain with new ideas, my arteries with cholesterol, and have a shiny new mouth ulcer to boot. Hells yeah!
Day one kicked off with a Brian, resplendent in purple gingham, and a mysterious woman from Bowie (hereafter referred to as Charlaine) attempting a lunch date at a modern sushi bar. This was a dangerous undertaking for several reasons. For starters, our original lunch plans had been foiled by the slimy knaves of Bezu, so I was already in a pisser of a mood; Charlaine was fearful of being arrested in Chevy Chase, and, as I’m sure you’re all aware, I’m the snobbiest critic of all things Japanese. Forgive me, Sunny.
Sushiko, one of two restaurants bearing that name in the DC area, reminded me of the inside of a fish bowl. It was bright, minimalist, and marine. Except for the white leather booths (which Charlaine found to be a bold choice), a goldfish would have felt right at home. Or Daryl Hannah from Splash.
For 20 smackaroos, Sushiko put up quite an impressive Restaurant Week lunch menu. Here’s what we devoured:
Sushi (spicy tuna maki; assorted nigiri)
I also indulged in a white cosmopolitan and sesame ice cream for dessert.
Wild mushroom soup
Sushi (same as mine)
Our Bowie beauty (how witty am I?) also shared some edamame with me, and had sansho bread pudding, green tea whipped cream and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
These lovely shots are provided by Charlaine herself, as she wields the power of film much better than I do; I am much more apt at providing the pretentious critique.
The wild mushroom soup was very delicate and earthy — great for whetting your appetite and not weighing you down. I question, though, Sushiko’s decision for even having this item on the menu; this is unquestionably an autumnal dish in Japan, a country where seasonal cooking is the only cooking. It was tasty, but not appealing when it’s 632 degrees outside.
The miso soup? Well, I make better, but I make miso soup better than most Japanese I know. (Think I just nailed my pretentiousness quota.)
On to the next course. I had the shrimp tempura (not pictured); it was two giant prawns and an assortment of vegetables in a crispy crunch. Tempura is straightforward — it’s either well-done, or it’s not. This was fine, but truly high quality sushi restaurants that do tempura (in Japan) will give you a bowl of coarse salt in addition to, or in lieu of, typical broth. While the broth was tasty, I wanted that punch of sodium, dang nabbit. Oh, and the portion size? Ridiculous. That alone would have fed me for dinner.
The real star of the entire lunch was Charlaine’s salmon ceviche. Sashimi-style salmon in yuzu juice, with salmon roe, wasabi mayonnaise, and mitsuba (a Japanese green), this dish was intricate, with great depth of flavor and beautiful balance. The eggs popping and squirting in your mouth, the creaminess of the fish and mayo, and that awesome zing from the yuzu culminated in what those of us in the know call a foodgasm. Absolute yumminess and a clear winner for both me and Charlaine.
The sushi course was sushitastic. Fresh fish, cut well. Not much can be said about sushi, because, like tempura, it’s either spot-on, meh, or rotten. This was spot-on, and for a first-time sushier like Charlaine, a good way to delve into the world of rawness.
We ended our food orgy with some dessert. The sesame seeds in the sesame ice cream were simply not processed enough, giving the dish a very mealy texture that was frankly not enjoyable. On the other hand, Charlaine’s sansho bread pudding was an interesting experience. She gobbled it up with gusto, and I was very intrigued with the fact that the pudding itself was flavored by sansho, which is Sichuan pepper from Japan. It gave you a really nice hit of heat at the end.
Overall, though, I’m not sure the dish worked as a whole, and it was because of the green tea whipped cream. For starters, I don’t need whipped cream if I have ice cream, and vice versa. It’s just too much. However, the big problem was the flavor. The green tea whipped cream was plain overpowering; it should have been subtle and worked in tandem with the spice in the pudding. As it was, the cream was overworked and heading towards the clotted cream stage, it tasted too strong, and when I ate it with the bread pudding, I felt like someone had put pepper in my tea. That just doesn’t jive with me.
We rounded out with a bill of 35ish for Charlaine and 45ish for me (because of that damn cosmo!). The pacing of the service was horrible, with our dishes being brought out far too quickly — and on multiple occasions while we were still in the process of eating the previous one. (Ironically, dessert took forever to come.) Bad form, Sushiko!
That being said, Charlaine and I both enjoyed our lunch. For her, it was a big leap into proper (sort of) Japanese food, and she found it to be very tasty and light; she was satiated, but not sluggish or bloated. That’s a sign that you’ve had fairly good Japanese food. She also talked about the ceviche for the rest of the week.
Would I go back? Well, the food was tasty, especially the ceviche, and the company was wonderful, but I can’t imagine paying normal price for anything on the a la carte menu. I can get sushi of equivalent quality at other places for considerably less money. So, short of an amazing deal, I probably wouldn’t hit up Sushiko again. Still, it was a wonderful start to Restaurant Week, and Charlaine’s outrage at being charged ten bucks for parking had me in giggles for hours.
That wraps up Sushiko. Stay tuned for more posts; I’m doing one for each restaurant I ravaged! (For those of us who struggle with the maths, that’s five more.)