Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kotobuki in Palisades, DC

I've been looking for a place like this in DC.

Simple, fresh, intricately made Japanese food with particular care to details? Check. A menu not overrun by glorified California rolls? Check. A small, intimate setting? Check, check, and check. Table for two? Yes please!

Kotobuki is a very small, authentic, no-frills sushi bar that does simple food extremely well. No, you won't find a chef doing that "flip-knife-over-the-shoulder-and-catches-it-with-an-egg" teppanyaki manuver  nor should you be expecting some double-deep-fried-tuna-avocado-black-rice-roll-topped-with-spicy-mayo-house-sauce-tempura-flakes-and-baked sushi roll. And you know what? That's pretty darn attractive.

The place is small, so don't be bringing your extended family and your long-lost high school friend here and if you come after 7, you will probably wait. By the time we were done with dinner, the wait was out the door. Insider tip though: if you don't want to wait, call ahead and get take out.

Eel Kamameshi // Meat and vegetables cooked in a traditional iron kettle // $19.50

The kamameshi was the reason I came here; it's a unique yet homey and comforting dish of savory rice and vegetables. The eel and veggies are steamed with a soy-dashi-sake sauce on top of the rice so that the rice is perfectly infused with the fish juices, fat, and cooking liquid. It reminds me of Chinese clay pot rice or Korean bibimbap, but the lightness and delicate flavors of this dish makes it distinctly Japanese.

Unadon // BBQ Freshwater eel over rice // $19.50

An oldie but a goodie: deliciously fatty, flavorful eel covered in a sweet and savory sauce. The fish was plentiful and fresh, but if you can only get one eel dish here, skip it and go for the kamameshi. Then thank me later.

Both eel dinner sets came with four side dishes - marinated burdock root, four pieces of sashimi (two tuna and two flounder), boiled watercress greens in a light soy sauce-dashi-mirin sauce, and chopped flounder with masago and sesame oil. All the sides were artfully prepared, clean tasting, and a great accompaniment to the fatty eel.

Sashimi Special // $21

Sashimi in college means we're eating like kings tonight. Although the price is a bit (lot) hefty for about 16 pieces of fish, it was worth every single bite. The sashimi special consisted of maguro, hamachi, flounder, and salmon, each piece gut generously without being too fleshy to fully enjoy the fish's textures, fresh, rich, and oh-so-delicious.

Go-to Japanese restaurant in DC? Check.

Kotobuki Sushi & Kamameshi 
4822 MacArthur Blvd., NW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20007
Kotobuki on Urbanspoon