You gotta respect a man with a headband and lean, mean butchering skills, right? Chef Yonemoto of Kushi Izakaya and Sushi is bent over a cutting board chiseling away at a raw chicken, effortlessly slicing up breast strips for us to grill. Cathy and I are standing in the open grill kitchen (if you want to get all fancy about it, you can call it the robata counter) of Kushi sipping green tea and observing the inner workings of my newest favorite sushi spot in the city.
Chef Yonemoto is a Washoku Chef at Kushi and leads the team behind the robata counter. When Cathy and I arrived he walked out from behind the counter, strapped on his white chefs headband and got down to business. Chef Yonemoto hails from Tokyo, and in addition to his cooking experiences in Japan has held positions as Executive Chef at Inagiku in NYC, Sushi Chef at Kaz Sushi Bistro and most recently as Executive Chef at Bethesda’s Raku Asian Diner.
This man means business. Yonemoto has been in the states for awhile, so he knows the American palate very well. He has the ability to bridge the gap between what the American customers want and hold on to his Japanese traditions and his upbringings within his food, which is why he tolerates Cathy’s and my dumb questions about plum sauce with ease, grabbing a bottle and squeezing a dollop onto a spoon. I taste it, expecting the sugary plum sauce Americans are used to and immediately regret that as I pucker up. Real plum sauce? Sour, ya’ll.
In a matter of minutes Yonemoto has whipped up some grilled skewers and has them over the charcoal, an easy summer dish if there ever was one. Stay tuned for Cathy’s Part II post with the recipe – and then you can impress your friends with one of the easiest to make but fanciest looking grill dishes I’ve ever made.
Kushi is located at 465 K St NW in the City Vista building.