There’s something wrong with me (maybe). I can’t get enough sushi! I just crave it – spicy tuna, firecracker, flying fish roe, fatty tuna, I WANT IT ALL. So when I was invited to check out the new Japanese gastropub in Mount Vernon Square, I jumped at the chance.
Sleek, modern and minimalist, the best Kushi experience you can have is at one of their three (!) bars – the sake bar, the sushi bar or what I call the grill bar – what is technically supposed to be called the robata counter. I sat at the robata counter – the bar surrounding Kushi’s kitchen. There is literally no back kitchen at Kushi, everything is prepared out front under the watchful eye of diners. With charcoal and wood burning grills, a sous-vide machine and a few tiny stoves, eating at Kushi is cooking theater. Chefs slice, dice, grill, plate and prep right in front of you. It gives the diner a perfect vantage point for the evening, and also keeps you craving more.
We started the American way, with sushi. Here’s the thing about Kushi’s sushi (ha, isn’t that fun to say?) – it’s not fussy – it’s all about the quality of the fish. There are no tricks, you won’t find a fish and chips roll here, or a godzirra – nope. It’s all about putting the protein on display. In fact, Kushi has fish flown in every morning from the Tokyo fish market. They serve only the best cuts with fresh wasabi. But the foreign fish about the only non-locovore part of the restaurant. Most of the decor was built with recycled materials, and when they can, they use fresh vegetables from Farm Fresh favorite, Pennsylvania’s Tuscarora Farms.
Meals are perfectly paired with a well-organized sake menu. Four Japanese beers are always available on draught and an additional selection of over eight Japanese and other beers rounds out the menu. The sake program is comprehensive with more than 60 selections of hot and cold sake featuring filtered or unfiltered sake and small batch labels by the glass or bottle. The sake menu is ranked by numbers ranging for dry to sweet and sparkling.
Once you’ve selected a sake bottle, they allow you to choose your own sake glass from a tray with six or seven different designs – I chose a pretty little light blue pottery one, and my companion chose a wooden cup, pictured above. It’s those little touches like choosing your own dishware that make Kushi such a fun experience.
Even the chopstick rests are unique. Little ceramic snow peas and pickles or pretty striped bars keep your chopsticks from touching table. Even the chopsticks are thoughtful, with a textured point for better gripping. After ordering and finishing classic sushi, we started in on the grill items. I’d recommend the pork belly, wagu beef, and if you’re ready to get spendy, the little dollop of foie gras with plum sauce is divine. The serving sizes are small – like in the picture above, three slices of meat to a stick. But the process is incredibly complex, most of the items have been sous-vide for hours on end and then seared and grilled, a process that can take more than a day from start to finish.
The vegetables are well prepared. The grilled asparagus comes woodfire grilled and diners are treated to a mix of both green and white stalks. The potatoes with an aoli are crispy and a nice accompaniment to the grilled meats.
All in all, Kushi is shaping up to be a new DC favorite. The service is still a bit hit-or-miss, but that’s to be expected in the first two weeks while the kitchen works out the kinks. The sake martinis are lovely, the fish is impeccable, and the grill items are simple. Kushi is the perfect place for me to feed my sushi addiction.
Kushi is located in the new City Vista building 465 K St. NW next to Busboys and Poets in the Mt. Vernon Neighborhood. Closest Metro: Mount Vernon Square (Green and Yellow lines). For more information, call (202) 682-3123.
Thanks to Three Lockharts Public Relations for the invitation to try Kushi.