Rachel and I have been meaning to try Kushi for what seems like an eternity, and given that our LivingSocial certificate was about to expire in a few days, we had to act fast. We decided to make a reservation last Monday since it would not be as difficult as opposed to securing a table later in the week.
Kushi Izakaya & Sushi, which is a part of the CityVista complex, has garnered positive reviews since opening early last year and is the only Izakaya-style restaurant in DC proper. Considering that both Rachel and I are adventurous when it comes to food (which was taken to the nth degree at Sushi Taro), Kushi was right down our alley.
When we arrived, our waitress greeted herself while explaining the menu and how to order. For us first-timers, it was intimidating to say the least. The menu is divided into several categories which range from small plates to grilled skewers to sushi.
After taking a considerable amount of time to review the menu, we were finally ready to place our order. We started the evening off with the ginger fried chicken. The chicken must have come right out of the fryer as it was piping hot. Not anything amazing but the soy dipping sauce was rather addictive. We should have gone with the Kawa (crispy chicken skin) instead.
Up next was Onigri, or crispy rice ball. Kushi offers Onigri as a daily special and rotates what ingredients it uses – that night the kitchen used pork as its featured protein. Considering that it was only $3, this was more of my choice than Rachel’s as I was curious what it would taste like. While I enjoyed the texture of the grilled rice and how it created a cohesive outer layer around the pork, we probably could have done without it as there were simply better options on the menu.
Speaking of which, our next plate was the tuna tataki. One of the more authentic items of the night, I really enjoyed this dish as the ginger and vinegar hit a nice balance with one another. Rachel, on the other hand, initially thought it would resemble more of a tuna tartar so she wasn’t the biggest fan after a few bites.
While Rachel may have been disappointed with the tataki, we both adored the pork belly skewers. One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, these were simply fantastic. Tender and succulent, these are a must-order should you ever dine at Kushi. Futhermore, our order of bacon-wrapped asparagus was on the very same plate. I don’t have to remind you that anything wrapped in bacon is automatically considered a success, do I?
Up next was an order of Japanese eggplant. While the sauce was a little too sweet, this proved to be another solid choice. The grilled eggplant was excellently prepared and nearly melted in your mouth. Highly recommended.
Continuing our selections from the robata (wood grill), our next plate was Geso, or grilled squid legs. The char really enhanced the overall flavor of the dish while the squid was not as chewy as anticipated. We were both very happy how this item turned out.
After several plates from the robata, we finally moved onto the sushi. The seared sea scallop maki was excellent – one of our favorite sushi courses of the night. Meanwhile the beef maki was a little too overwhelming, both in size and execution. Considering all the other plates we ordered, the beef roll was just a little too much and didn’t bring anything exciting to the table.
The seared fatty salmon nigiri was simply incredible, and I’m not even a huge salmon fan. The fish was lightly seared, bringing out more of the flavor while melting in your mouth.
We were tempted to order another but instead got the tuna sashimi. Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed with the quality of the fish and considering that we had a similar tuna dish earlier in the night, I should have just went with my gut and got that second order of salmon. Lesson learned, I suppose.
Just when we thought we were done, I was able to convince Rachel to split an order of the black sesame gelato. The only tip I can give you is this: order this as your dessert. There were hints of what tasted like peanut butter as we dug away at the generous scoops in what rapidly soon became an empty glass bowl.
Overall we had a great time during our first visit at Kushi. Granted, we went a tad overboard with how many plates we ordered, but the LivingSocial deal allowed us to sample more of their menu without taking such a hit in the wallet. This is a place that you need to visit several times as there is so much to choose from. All I know is that the pork belly skewers will be on the bill each and every time we visit.