We’ve reached a point in the United States where sushi is so prevalent and available that every grocery store now has a section full of pre-packaged sushi and every month there seems to be a new restaurant concept attempting to pass off some sort of fusion dish as sushi. While it’s great that our palates are becoming more accustomed to foods that have not always been part of the American diet, it’s also becoming increasingly difficult to find restaurants that stick to tradition rather than chase the latest trend.
Enter Sushi Taro, located above the CVS at the corner of 17th & P Streets NW which you’d almost miss if you weren’t paying attention. In 2008, the restaurant closed to actually reduce the number of seats and focus more on the quality and tradition of the food. And it paid off: Sushi Taro is a mainstay on Washingtonian’s Top 100 Restaurants and has earned international recognition by garnering a Michelin Star every year since the guide began publishing in DC in 2016.
Earlier this summer I paid a visit to experience Taro’s Sushi Kaiseki, a type of formal dining primarily served in the traditional ryokans throughout Japan.
Our meal consisted of nine courses beginning with refreshing seasonal bites followed by Grilled Ayu Yuan-yaki with Soumen cold noodle soup.
Next up came three courses of sushi beginning with a plate of sashimi and then two nigiri assortments that were so fresh you’d think Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market is just around the corner from the restaurant.
After this, the server brought another plate, described by the restaurant as “special sushi – some old and new style sushi” which included one of my favorites – salmon roe.
At this point, my stomach was full of various sushi and I was ready for something new. Turns out, the restaurant was thinking the same thing. The next course, dubbed the main dish, was Shabu-Shabu, a Japanese hot pot cooked at the table with thinly sliced pieces of pork and wild ramps. The pork had a great ratio of fat to protein, and cooked in the fabulous broth created something truly special for the taste buds.
Following this came another nigiri plate, this time of my choosing which I made sure included my favorite Otoro, fatty tuna.The kaiseki dinner ended with a refreshing Ichigo Daifuku. This mochi-wrapped strawberry provided the palate with a bright and sweet ending to a beautifully composed and orchestrated dinner that transports diners from DC to Kyoto minus the 16 hour flight.
At $90/person without pairing, Taro’s Sushi Kaiseki isn’t a place you would go every week. However, for a special occasion or a celebratory dinner, I highly recommend a visit.