Friday, November 7, 2014

Kintaro in Georgetown, DC

If you've read about my visit to Kotobuki, then you'll know that I am an absolute sucker for small, homey Japanese restaurants. Located just off M Street, Kintaro unexpectedly offers just what I like: authentic, intricately prepared food that is simple but well prepared.

Knowing Georgetown's real estate prices, Kintaro is expectedly small. More like minuscule. There are perhaps three or four tables that seat two, two that seats four, and a tiny sushi counter for another two. Add that together and at peak, the restaurant can hold 18 guest max, plus the two severs, one sushi chef, and the kitchen chef.

What Kintaro lacks in space though, they more than make up with speed and efficiency. The menu is very basic: a handful of appetizers (still need to try the monkfish liver!), a few sushi and sashimi sets, two donburis, three ramen choices, and a bare-minimum sushi and maki selection. On the wall is a whiteboard with a few current chef's specials. You know they mean business and authenticity here!

I arrived at about 6:30 on a Wednesday night and was able to snag the last open table in the restaurant. We were quickly given the menu, brought drinks, and within ten minutes of ordering, our food was in front of us (getting cold as I photographed them first, of course).

Onigiri // Rice ball with salmon // 3

What I like most about Kintaro is their attention to details. I tend to judge Japanese restaurants by the quality of their rice and tamago, two things often easily overlooked but when done well makes a huge difference. If a restaurant pays attention two these little details, then they probably will do the "bigger" things extremely well too. The onigiri came with the rice still warm, firm and sticky enough to hold a shape, but not mashed into a ball, the nori still warm, and most importantly already pre-seasoned with salt. Yes, the rice is done well. Item number one: check.

Chirashi Sushi // Chef's choice of sashimi over sushi rice // 20

If given a choice, I always chose chirashi over a sashimi set. First because I believe that carbs are important, but also because I like getting a bit and piece of all the types of fish. Fun fact when taking me out to a Japanese restaurant: after sea urchin, my favorite sashimi cuts are the less expensive ones like flounder, octopus, and squid. This visit's bowl came with some masago, yellowtail, tuna, salmon, unagi, tamago, and squid. All the bits of fish were extremely fresh, well cut, and yes, the tamago was fantastic. Item number two: check.

Tonkotsu Ramen // 10

While the sushi at Kintaro is a bit expensive, their ramen is a great deal. On this occasion, we tried the Tonkotsu, which is a richer, opaque, pork broth that came topped with chashu, seaweed, egg, kamaboko, beni shoga, and scallions. The broth is deliciously meaty, salty, thick with collagen, and coats the inside of the mouth beautifully while the noodles are nice and springy. Definitely something great to have on a cold day. Plus a $10 sit-down meal on M Street? Heck yes, sign me up.

I have been to Kintaro other times and tried a few dishes. One thing I would strongly recommend is the burikama or yellowtail collar. Get it grilled with salt and it is the most moist, melty, piece of fish you'll ever have. Plus, eating it is almost like a game trying to get all the meat out of the crevasses.

So yeah, if you're craving warm, authentic Japenese food on the East side of Georgetown, Kintaro is your spot.

And you'll probably find me there.

Kintaro Japanese Restaurant
Kintaro Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon
1039 33rd St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007