Plaudits: Washingtonian 2010 #59, Washingtonian 2009 #52, Washingtonian 2008 #65
I'm not sure I've mentioned it in this space, but I'm currently training for a triathlon; as part of that, I find myself biking long distances all over the city. And since my attitude has always been make-a-food-event-out-of-everything, I decided to map my bike route to pass by restaurants that were a little more out-of-the-way. So it was that mindset that led me to Kotobuki.
Kotobuki is on the second floor of a townhouse, sitting on top of Makoto, another Japanese restaurant (one would think this positioning would have driven one of them out of business, but both have survived). As you walk in, you're met with a set of stairs cordoned off by short red curtain which brings you up to the small intimate dining area. My quick count noted six two-tops and a four-top, around a six-seat sushi bar, where I sat.
The decor is sparse, white walls painted with black calligraphy or brush strokes in black and red. Lighting is provided by some track lighting, and the background mix is an endless loop of The Beatles. The whole operation seems small but welcoming at the least, the kind of neighborhood place that doesn't mind who you are or what you're wearing; I wasn't even the only one in athletic clothing who stopped in.
I decided that I didn't want anything too elaborate, so I passed on some of the more complicated foods (like the kamemeshi). Instead I ordered a bunch of sushi and sashimi: pieces of octopus, white tuna, and toro, and a rainbow roll (salmon, tuna, tobiko, egg, and avocado). At first, they brought me out the wrong platter, and being as hungry as I was, I started eating the dish at right starting with the salmon nigiri, which was okay. Before I could too deep into it, I got my actual plate and started to dissect it.
The octopus was pretty decent, better than expected, and the white tuna was a dream; I haven't had too much white tuna, but this had a lot of pleasant flavor in it. The toro was actually a disappointment. After my positive experience with toro at Sushi-Ko, all I wanted was that butter, unctuous taste again. Unfortunately these pieces were just not as flavorful and left me wanting more.
As for the rainbow roll, it certainly lived up to its name, but it was sort of a monster to try and keep together when I picked it up. The egg was a new thing for me in terms of sushi, and overall the roll was good, but nothing to call home about. In fact, the roll was loaded with so much roe that it took away from the bite.
Was this good sushi? Absolutely. Was it inexpensive for the quality of the meal? Hands down. For a cheap but great sushi, this would be a solid choice. But given its location, and the other good sushi places I've been to within DC proper, unless I was up in the Palisades again, I probably won't be heading back.
Food Rating: *** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: N/A
Cost: $ (out of 5) (less than $25 for two)
Pairing: A little bit up Macarthur Blvd is the Palisades Playground, which is one of the nicer parks in DC. In honor of the World Cup, grab a soccer ball and play a game in the sunshine.