Dining Out Magazine

KUSHI Izakaya & Sushi, Washington D.C.

By Weavethousandflavors

Yours truly celebrated a birthday recently and it only seemed fitting that since I was going to have a 'cheat day' it should be indulging in only the finest fare so that my tastebuds too would have a celebration of their own.

Kushi, Izakaya & Sushi inWashington D.C. fit the bill quite nicely.


First off, it's been on my go-to list for over a year. Ever since they were one of the two James Beard awards semi-finalists under the 'Best New Restaurant' category in D.C. back in 2011.

Secondly, who am I to pass off an opportunity to play dress-up along with suited-booted hubby and go off to D.C. for a true blue date night? If you're a parent, you know that such opportunities are far and between no matter how hard we try. Don't get me wrong, Mr. Hubby and I are pretty good of going off one a month on a date night sans kids but usually it's the thrown-on-a-pair-of-jeans-and-go-to-the-movies-over-burgers variety.

This was different.

Tonight we were going to indulge.

This wasn't our first time on the Izakaya rodeo - remember those posts on Roka Akor & Sushi Roku?

But this was an entirely different kind of Izakaya - for one thing it's set in the very Urban Mount Vernon neighbourhood of D.C. The vibe is modern & just as the name
Izakaya (pronounced ee-ZAH-ka-ya) suggests, tt is neither a restaurant nor a bar.

It is more of a neighborhood hang out - for all types of people, from the office workers in suits and lose ties on the way home, a couple out for dinner, to groups of friends chilling in a laid back environment.

Which btw also makes for great people watching - the couple 30 ft across from us seated on the other side of the open kitchen provided me with endless entertainment as the woman's top nearly falling off one shoulder and I can swear the guy next to me at the bar (not my husband!) was panting as he was waiting for one of her boobs to fall out.

First off in my defense before you think I'm being really catty (I'm being polite), the woman was on the high end of 40 and you know the that idiom about the fine line between sexy and tramp - yah! that's the one that comes to mind. And then my hubby was shaking his head when I couldn't stop tsk-ing when she pulled out her credit card. We all know what that evening was really about!

But anyway, back to why we're really here - the food.

I loved the relaxed, urban chic, trendy and stark environment of KUSHI which I think formed the perfect backdrop to the heart of the space that is the kitchen and the food being its embellishments. It's the sort of place one might expect to find at a train station in Osaka or in Tokyo's trendiest neighborhood.


Kushi-collage 04

Drinks and specials are scrawled over large blackboard like so.


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And since I had already done my homework, I settled for a luscious Lychee Martini.

Our server George did a great job explaining our options for the evening and gave a bit of a chuckle when he asked me if he had changed my mind about what anything we wanted to order and I said no.

And so the parade of dishes began to arrive.

Kara age soy ginger marinated fried chicken The crispy coating was some of the finest I had eaten in a long time. Not oily, perfect balance and crunch, texture and seasoning. I was also impressed at the use of chicken thighs v/s breasts which nearly guarantees a moist meat.

The dipping sauce was salty and I kept wishing for a sweeter finish.

The Last word: Good for a first try. Will I order it again? May be not (but yes when with kids)

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Sashimi trio variety of marinated maguro tuna, hirame /fluke & salmon

The pieces of nearly translucent yellowtail tasted very clean with a lovely hint of texture from the spicy shaved daikon radish & mustard pebbles.  The salmon was quite fatty which imparted a certain level of lusciousness & quite brilliant with the seaweed accompaniment but for me the star of this trio was the tuna whose large pieces of ruby-like meat tasted  both freshness and a unique smoky taste that was akin to delicious clarified butter.

The Last word: A must have! Will I order it again? Absolutely YES since it is not only excellent but also a steal at $13!

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ROBATA WOOD GRILL: Whole fish: bronzino  

We were torn between the whole fish and the miso marinated black cod fillet but I am so glad we took George's recommendation and ordered the whole bronzino. We salt the chef salt and pepper and it and then slow roast at the highest point over the flame, taking it down near the flame only at the very end for that crispy skin & final broil. 

The Last word: Excellent if you love a good whole fish and don't mind picking through the bones. I would absolutely order this again if it's just the two of us. Not so much with the kids.


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ROBATA WOOD GRILL: Day boat sea scallops w/ yuzu kosho butter & Eringi mushroom

First off, let me just say that not only would I order the scallops again but I'd make it a double order! The scallops not only have a melt-in-the mouth creamy texture but the butter has a nice spicy kick to it that kept me coming back for more.

The mushrooms with their clean,  meaty texture & smoky flavors was perfect as a palete cleanser betwen courses and I would order this again as a nice 'spacer' to restore a flavor balance between the more the embellished dishes.

The Last word: Oh yes! And make that a double order!

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KUSHI YAKI (Charcoal grilled skewers) : Buta bara / pork belly


SUSHI : MAKIMONO (Rolls) : Braised pork belly, kaiware sprouts & scallion

Perfectly flavored with a ablalance of salty and sweet, with that slow sous-vide cooked, melt-in-the-mouth texture and then finished on the grill, I'd say the pork belly skewers are a no brainer must have. I can see why just about every food blogger I know has raved about this menu offering. 

Since we were only ordering one sushi-roll, we wanted to do something a little different to the usual spicy tuna etc. So glad we went with the pork belly roll. Completely different to the texture of the skewer, the roll was refreshing, delicately flavored without that incredibly fatty component one would fear from minced up pork belly.

The Last word:  We're ordering these again alright!


Black sesame gelato

There is no other way to describe our final order than sweet & creamy with a final peanut butter finish.

As far as I was concerned, KUSHI lived up to the hype. The food is excellent but like in any restaurant you owe it to yourself to do your homework before you embark on a pricey foodie adventure.

Just shy of $100, I think Kushi was well priced. Will it qualify for a romp every weekend? No but certainly for the occasional splurge. I am now looking forward to their weekend brunch which features traditional egg dishes.

If there is one point that has room for improvement at KUSHI, it is the speed with which dishes arrive and line-up at the table. I actually had to ask George to slow it down so we could savor the experience. Fortunately he was very nice about it and things fell into a much appreciated rythum after.

I know that I'll be back with the kids and certainly when discerning out-of-town guests visit. I am glad KUSHI is here to stay and has made quite a statement on the D.C. sushi/izakaya scene.

I for one am blissfully happy about that!


Menu link

465 K St Nw, Washington, DC

T: (202) 682-3123

Kushi Izakaya & Sushi on Urbanspoon

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