Feasting on Sushi and Small Plates at Kushi Izakaya

On a whim, this Memorial Day weekend, we decided to head to Kushi Izakaya & Sushi at the City Vista neighborhood, just north of Chinatown. Kushi had been on our list, and we may even have had reservations there somewhat recently, but we hadn’t actually made it over there yet.

First, about the neighborhood: if I didn’t live in Dupont Circle, I would probably live near the Vista. In fact, I’ve been known to surf listings in the area from time to time. Sure, the Rogue nightclub is still across the street at K between 4th and 5th, and that place doesn’t seem that hospitable to yuppie gentrifiers, but one could easily live at the City Vista – or at least eat there every night.

Monday could be Taylor Gourmet, for watching Monday Night Football, Tuesday could be Mandu for chicken bulgogi, Wednesday drinks and snack at Bus Boys and Poets, Thursday maybe takeout from the Safeway and then Friday – out, Kushi or head down to Chinatown.  Yep, that’s the life. Of course, it would be tempting to go to Kushi every night, especially in the summer, when they serve so many fresh, seasonal vegetables.

For our dinner, we were seated around the sushi bar. I’m not a huge sake fan, and while the cocktails looked good, I was intrigued by the variety of Japanese beers offered – far more than the usual Kirin Light, which is always an excellent choice. I chose a superior lager, which tasted like a Belgian beer, with much less carbonation.

Good Japanese beer selection at Kushi

The menu was a bit intimidating only because everything looked so tasty, and it was hard to tell how large the portions were. So we just ordered everything that looked good – and that was a lot. Some of our favorites …

Grilled asparagus on a warm summer day:

grilled asparagus

Grilled razor clams in their broth – the key here was to pour the broth over the rice, to capture all of the flavor and juice:

grilled clams

Grilled quail stuffed with duck sausage, beautifully presented and carefully crafted. Usually quail is a huge pain to eat, but here it had been basically deboned and reconstructed. While I’m not a huge fan of either quail or duck, I was a huge fan of this dish – delicious and rich:

grilled quail stuffed with duck sausage

There were so many others, grilled skewer of lobster tail, wagyu beef, leeks, chicken breast with wasabi … seaweed salad and agedashi tofu in a lightly flavored broth.

The sushi, which was served just before the rolls, was beautifully turned out as well. And here, we had watched the chefs sear salmon belly nigiri all night, finally, our turn. What a wonderful texture and flavor, not fatty or fishy tasting at all, just melt in your mouth:

tuna, hake, salmon roe and seared salmon belly sushi

We were kind of hoping they would forget our last two dishes – a pork belly roll and a amazing yellowtail scallion roll, with super fresh yellowtail and tiny bits of fresh, biting scallions mixed throughout.  We were full, but there was no way we were going to forego these rolls.

We managed to roll ourselves home.  Having sampled so many of the dishes this time, we’ll feel less compelled to try “everything” next time – unless it’s a different season, and they have different dishes …

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