Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #42, Washingtonian 2009 #29, Washingtonian 2008 #29
Neighborhood: Two locations, one in Chevy Chase, one in Glover Park
Every couple of weeks or so I find myself in Chevy Chase, and more often than not, I'm hungry. This time Official Friend of DCWD JV was also in the mood for dinner, and with two hours to kill, I managed to convince her to try out Sushi-Ko with me.
Sushi-Ko Chevy Chase sits in an upscale shopping center next to a Giant supermarket, which is why I pass it every time I'm up there. And every time I'm just as intrigued by the seemingly disparate dining spaces in each window as I walk by. Finally venturing inside, my opinion is no different, but what a beautiful space. The restaurant's dining rooms (of which there are essentially three), are all united by common theme and color scheme. The restaurant is modern in its decor, with stark straight lines everywhere and an overall architectural motif of lines and curves; above the dining area where we sat was a circular sunburst array of white slats.
The three dining areas (bar area, main dining area, side dining room) are all colored white, brown, red, and black, though different colors dominate in each room. The bar is dominantly red and dimly lit, small with eight or so seats at the bar, a few cocktail tables, and lounge seating. The main seating area, features a large ten seat sushi bar (where JV and I were seated), a row of monstrous booth seating around the edge of the U-shaped room (notched brown wood and white leather), and otherwise simple brown wood two- and four-tops. The third area, from what I saw in the window, is similarly colored, but in the typical bench seating style along the walls.
The sushi bar where we sat was tall; when you sit down at it, the counter is right at your elbows, but the top of the bar is above your head, so that you feel a little dominated by the chefs behind it. It does provide you a modicum of privacy (well, as much privacy as you can have at a sushi bar next to other couples), but it's still a little imposing. Lighting is provided by some overhead bulbs, as well as what look like hanging silver flashlights around the edge of the sushi bar. In terms of service, it was a little confusing what we should do; the chefs behind the bar were clearly taking orders but we had a waiter as well. Overall though, they were helpful in getting us in and out quickly, as we were in a slight rush.
We couldn't very well go to a place called Sushi-Ko, and not have sushi. JV went with the Washington roll (mushroom, eel, cucumber, surimi crab), as well as the Spicy Scallop (scallop, fish roe, scallion, spicy sauce), except that she asked for it without spicy sauce. Our waiter took this to mean that she just wanted the scallop in her sushi... so that's not as good, but she enjoyed her sushi nonetheless. I didn't have any of hers, but JV thought it was yummy.
I went with the tuna five ways, five pieces of tuna sushi prepared five different ways: tuna, bluefin toro, zuke tuna, toro aburi, toro tartare (I know, I know, bluefin is the new Chilean sea bass, but I won't make a habit of it). The first four were prepared nigiri style, while the last was wrapped in nori and topped with roe. I went left to right on the plate. The first bite was pretty standard sushi-grade tuna, and I thought this sushi stop would be just like all the other sushi ones.
But the bluefin toro. Oh my god. What an amazing taste, light and buttery and just absolutely melted in my mouth. The third piece of zuke (tuna soaked in mirin, sake, and soy sauce) was also pretty light and good, but the transcendent experience repeated itself with the toro aburi (lightly grilled toro). All of the lightness and butteriness of the first piece of toro was doubled with the grilling, and the flavor of all the fat was beautiful. Lastly, the tartare preparation was probably one of the better tartare preparations I've ever had. All in all, the best sushi I've had in the city (though like every statement I've ever made to that effect, I will admit there are certainly plenty of high-end sushi places I haven't been to yet).
Like I said, I haven't been to too many upscale sushi places in DC. But the sushi was brilliant, and the decor was beautiful; I loved the architectural motifs. About the only downside we saw was the takeout chopsticks (Really? We can't spring for plastic ones?). An otherwise very enjoyable dinner with just the right mood, and the right food.
Food Rating: **** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 4 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Classy Crowd
Vibe: Calm to chatty
Cost: $$ (out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: Friendship Heights is chock full of shopping on that part of Wisconsin Ave, from a stand alone Loehmann's (as a previous commenter had posited) and SAKS Fifth Avenue, to Anthropologie and TJ Maxx, as well as the Mazza Galleria and the Chevy Chase Shopping Center. Plus it's a pretty pleasant walk when the weather's nice.