Earlier this month N and I checked out Kushi, a Japanese Izakaya-style restaurant sorta near Gallery Place. I was looking forward to trying this place out- I like the concept of Japanese-style bar foods, and a new Japanese place in general in DC.
The atmosphere is modern but inviting- more spacious than I had thought it would be. There's a large U-shaped counter seating area, a few pockets of regular dining tables, a small bar, and a sushi bar off in the back left corner. I had a few drinks at the bar and checked out the extensive menu while waiting for N to arrive. The photo below is literally one portion of the menu- lots of items to choose from!
One portion of the extensive menu
The day's specials
Amuse: Otoshi- Bean sprouts, mustard, soyWe grabbed seats at the grill area and started off with the amuse above- cold bean sprouts with mustard and soy mixed together, topped off with some thin nori slivers. It was a nice couple bites to start off the meal. It reminded me of a lot of side dishes in Japan- simple ingredients, but bold flavors.
Robata counter looking out to the bar
Lotsa grillin' going on
Nankotsu (Chicken cartilage), Crispy chicken skin
Like I said before- the menu is pretty friggin' big. It might take a while for you to decide what you feel like eating. Luckily the majority of the grill items are one skewer, so you could pick a bunch and not worry about getting too much of the same thing. The two items I got first probably aren't the most popular, but definitely two of the more interesting options on their menu. The Nankotsu, or chicken cartilage, is pretty much how you might imagine (or not want to imagine, as the case might be, haha). The tare (sauce) was really tasty, and while this was my first time with whole pieces (usually it's chopped up finer, at least when I've seen it before), it's really more of a texture thing than anything else. Meaning, if you are ok with eating something that is pretty chewy and crunchy at the same time ("kori-kori" in Japanese), then go for it! Onto the chicken skin, it might seem weird to some of you, but I looooove fried chicken skin. This was really tasty- crispy, crunchy, and yummy fried goodness.
Potatoes, Kabocha squash
My next order was the potatoes with salt, on the left side of this photo. These were soft and not mealy, pretty much on par with what you'd hope for in a grilled potato, I guess. I enjoyed the salt that they put on the side for you to dip it in.
Chicken thigh, Chicken with shiso and ume
Lots of people I know don't like chicken thighs, but I think it's way more flavorful and less dry than chicken breast can be. It probably also helps that chicken thighs are used pretty regularly in Japanese cooking so I might just be more used to it in general. This was covered in the same tare as the nankotsu and was moist and delicious. Many of their grilled proteins seemed to come out of sous-vide pouches, so they retained a lot of moistness and flavor even after spending time on the grill. I thought that was an interesting idea, especially to keep items fresh and infused with flavor.
Aburi-sake (Lightly torched fatty salmon) nigiri
Onto a sushi menu item- I wasn't originally going to have any sushi but I generally cannot pass up aburi sake. It is just so so so so so rich and delicious, especially if it's done really well like this one. The fish was meltingly tender and the light torching on the top adds an interesting layer of flavor. It's definitely not an everyday item (well, at least it probably shouldn't be, haha), but I'm glad I tried it here. My mouth is literally watering just writing about it here, ha.
Scallop in the shell (from the day's specials menu)
Finally, I got an item of the day's specials menu- Scallop in the shell. Great presentation, nice lemony/acid flavor in the sauce, the scallops were a little on the small side but tasty.
Overall- I thought Kushi was a great addition to the DC restaurant scene. Service was nice, I never felt ignored or pushed from any upselling which is always good. It's got an extensive menu that encourages people-like me- to come back and try everything. I think that adventureous and non-adventureous eaters can happily eat here, since there are lots of items to choose from. I will definitely be back to try some more items, especially off the sushi menu if it's as good as the salmon I had this time! This place can get pricey if you let it, which is the case with most "small-plates" restaurants in my opinion. I personally enjoy these restaurants because I can try more items at one time, so it's really a matter of what you choose on the menu. Worst case- you can always get a few plates here, then go next door to Taylor Gourmet for a filling sandwich :o)