Sticky Rice is a lot like its brazenly named signature dish, “Sticky Balls” – a chaotic gooey crunchy glorious mess.
This isn’t some temple of sushi where a plate of trembling tempura is placed in front of you with a reverential hush like it’s the freaking Holy Grail. You want that, go to Sushi Ko. You want pristine sashimi prepared by traditional chefs, go to Sushi Taro. You want beautiful experiments and the occasional fugu dinner, go to Kaz.
What you will get at Sticky Rice is irreverent cuisine, a florid interior reminiscent of a tattoo parlor’s secret bordello, and a crazy atmosphere like some art students’ late night party. And resign yourself to waiting on a busy weekend… this isn’t the place to hit with a hard time deadline.
Warning: I’m serious about the wait. As more and more people explore the nightlife on H Street, the competition for a table at the limited restaurants can be fierce, and Sticky Rice is no exception. Hosts do a good job of manning the waitlist, but I highly recommend calling ahead on the weekend. Note the wait for your order can also be a bit long, as the kitchen never seems to get its timing act together. But if you’re ok with that, it can be fun to just chill and enjoy the atmosphere. Honestly, what else are you going to do? It’s H Street, you’re stuck there for the whole night anyway! I’ve rarely been impatient while waiting downstairs in the “pagoda bar,” with friendly bartenders providing decent saketinis and banging a gong to liven the crowd, all mesmerized by a hypnotic underwater projection. But if I had a concert to go to, I’d be peeved, so plan accordingly.
Billed as “American Pan-Asian” cuisine, Sticky Rice’s menu swerves wildly around noodles, sandwiches, and non-sushi entrees including buckets of tater tots and even a “whole lotta rib dinner.” There’s a large vegan/vegetarian friendly section as well. I have yet to try the tater tots, but the smell can drive you mad, and hefty sandwiches like Osaka Tuna or Umeboshi BBQ Pork come with them as opposed to the usual fries. Starters have been a mixed bag, with the Sticky Scallops earning praise from dinner companions, while the steamed Potstickers were deemed bland wet rags. The “regular” sushi is good, but not worth making a special trip to H Street if you already have a favorite local sushi bar.
It’s with their “specialty” sashimi and sushi rolls that Sticky Rice really breaks out. The aforepictured Sticky Balls is a crazy decadent mess of tuna, crab and rice deep fried in inari pockets covered with gooey wasabi dressing and eel sauce. Billy Goat’s Guff is a divine combination of goat cheese wrapped with broiled yellowtail and covered in ponzu sauce, scallions and sesame seeds, while the GI Jane kicks up the usual boring veggie maki of cucumbers and cream cheese by rolling around in crushed wasabi peas. My weepy eyes never quite recovered from the spicy punch of Snap, Crackle, Pop’s jalapenos, and the Chili Roll is equally deadly, tempered with pineapple. These are all incredibly fun dishes to experience, and when’s the last time you said that about food?
So, if you have time to spare and are playing around on H Street, hit Sticky Rice, bang the gong, order something that sounds wild, and don’t forget to pick up the bathroom phone… oh, you’ll see what I mean.
Sticky Rice is located at 1224 H Street NE. For more information, call (202) 397-ROLL.